Roosters' Road To The Finals
Another opening night to forget
Just as they did in 2013 – Year of the Rooster – the Tri-colours kicked off their campaign against their old sparring partner South Sydney. And just as they did in 2013, the Chooks were convincingly beaten 28-8 and left battered and bruised by an almost identical score line as Greg Inglis ran amok with a hat-trick and not a single Roosters big man ran for more than 100 metres. What a difference 26 rounds make.
The most potent attack from 2013 looked to have found their groove within 80 minutes when they ran up 11 tries against a hapless Parramatta outfit the very next week. But two weeks later in Round 4 they were held to nada by the Sea Eagles. Then just a single try against the Dogs. And then in the return fixture against the Eels, they could only manage two four-pointers against the same defence they had cut to ribbons just a month previous.
Mitchell Pearce's expensive night out
Fast forward another month and the Roosters are suddenly regulars in the winner's circle, and have put 64 points past the Dragons and the Tigers in successive weeks. So the Chooks decide to let the hair down at the local, and six hours later the night ends up in the toilet. Pearce is arrested for refusing to leave a Kings Cross nightspot, the media works itself into a frenzy over the girl in the yellow dress, Boyd Cordner gets swept up in the whole sorry mess and Laurie Daley eventually dumps the incumbent Blues halfback from what turns out to be the first victorious NSW side in eight long years.
Lattes over lagers
With a 42-10 drubbing handed down by the Cowboys just a week after Pearce copped a $20,000 fine and a one-week suspension, looking in the mirror didn't come easy down at Roosters HQ. And so it was decreed; lagers are out, the lattes are in. Prohibition swings into full effect, and the champs knock up four wins on the trot, including a win over the Storm, and work their way into the top four midway through the Origin period.
After all that hunger on show the year previous, the questions were coming thick and fast by the end of July; had the Chooks grown fat and overfed on their premiership success? A fair line of inquiry considering they surrendered a 24-0 lead to the cellar-dwelling, coach and Todd Carney-less Sharkies at the start of the month, and then followed it up by being on the wrong end of a 16-12 boilover to a Knights outfit missing four Origin reps from their backline.
Talk to the lucky few who've pulled off back-to-back premierships and they'll give it to you straight; that second title is invariably tougher than the first. And the revolving door that's been installed on the Chooks' casualty ward is certainly making them earn that repeat victory lap on the first weekend of October. Cordner, Jennings and Tupou have all spent six week stints on the sidelines, Sonny Bill Williams has had a few weeks rest over the back end of the year and now nuggety rake Jake Friend, arguably the most crucial cog in the Roosters' engine room, has been floored by a damn scary chest injury that left his lungs filled with two litres of fluid. Like we said, you've got to earn those bling-encrusted premiership rings.
Terrific Tupou, Awesome Aidan
Up until the last six weeks not too many in the red, white and blue could claim to have upped the ante on their 2013 output, but two of their younger stars have done it in spades and earned themselves Origin caps as a result. Daniel Tupou's aerial acrobatics and escaped giraffe running style have wowed the crowds and opposition wingers alike this year, while Aidan Guerra's uncompromising attitude and impressive defence have won plenty of plaudits both around Bondi and in his native Queensland. The pair have well and truly stepped up to the plate in 2014, and have earned themselves bolter status for the end-of-year Kangaroos squad as a result.
Mini bows out
After almost 300 NRL games, six grand finals, 18 Tests and 11 Origins played either side of a back injury that would have felled plenty of mere mortals, one of the Chooks' favourite sons Anthony Minichiello has decided to call it a day on his glittering 15-year career, and in the process give his teammates one hell of a reason to send him out carrying the Provan-Summons trophy. Again.
Title favourites, again
It took the best part of five months, but with six successive wins – in which they've racked up nigh on double the amount of points they've conceded – the premiers are finally back in the bookies' good books – and how! As always in the toughest competition on God's green earth, the cream has again risen to the top, and the Roosters are now the people's and the pundits' favourites after a stellar finish to the regular season. And the way they've gone about it is looking eerily similar to their preferred modus operandi. Pearce says he's never been more motivated, and looks it; offsider Jimmy Maloney is cheekily matching him line break for line break and try assist for try assist for their fast men out the back; SBW's go-go gadget arms are making a mockery of the ball-and-all tackle; and their big men are belting it up and knockin' 'em down.
Groundhog Day (or Minor Premiers, again)
And at the end of it all the JJ Giltinan Shield never even had to leave the Chooks' nest. Their 22-18 defeat of the arch-enemy South Sydney, coupled with Manly's flat effort in Townsville, delivers the club to the top of the NRL pile and back-to-back minor premierships for the second time since Jack Gibson and Arthur Beetson were steering the ship in 1974-75. And just like Big Jack, even Bigger Artie and the 16 blokes they led to a repeat of premiership glory, the Roosters have again hit their straps with impeccable timing and will take one hell of a beating.