Why the Roosters are missing Sonny Bill
They go into another Anzac Day blockbuster on the back of a three-match losing streak and in eighth position on the ladder and former Dragons coach Nathan Brown believes the Roosters are suffering a Sonny Bill Williams hangover.
Writing in this week's issue of Big League, Brown praised the performance of the premiership elects in narrow losses to the Broncos and Storm in the past fortnight but believes they are matches the Roosters would have won with Sonny Bill in their squad.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is facing the prospect of a month on the sidelines with a pectoral strain with Sam Moa returning to face the Dragons but there is one man the Roosters have to learn to live without, according to Brown.
"Coming into this year we wondered how much they’d miss Sonny Bill Williams. Players of his stature aren’t missed in easy wins, but in the tight games where one can play can make the difference," says Brown in the Round 8 issue of Big League.
"He was the player that lifted in the tight situations and came up with big plays. It’s fair to suggest that if they had Sonny for the past few matches they’d have won. The Roosters have a wonderful forward pack with some powerful ball-runners, good line-runners and, in Aidan Guerra, someone who can score tries. Sonny had the ability to do all that and more.
"Whether drifting down the short-side to hit a winger or getting halfway through the line and coming up with a beautiful offload, Sonny could do it all. He was just as deadly using his power to run through the ruck or smaller defenders to score. In the past three games, one of those plays would’ve been enough to get the Roosters over the line. I’m sure in the back of their minds they are realising just how good he was."
Up against the best defence in the competition through seven rounds, the Roosters will need to find a way to breakdown the great wall of St George Illawarra at Allianz Stadium in what will be the centrepiece of five Anzac Day games on Saturday.
With the representative season almost upon us the Origin claims of Roosters halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney once again go under the blowtorch as they look to free up an attack that has struggled to post big totals in recent weeks.
"When you lose a forward like Sonny it puts the pressure on your halves to create try-scoring opportunities," Brown says. "It’s been extremely uncharacteristic of the Roosters, scoring less than 20 points in the past three matches.
"Previously the Roosters only needed one of their halves to play well to go with Sonny. Now they need James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce performing on the same day to score enough points.
"That shows in the fact they’ve only scored seven tries in those three losses."
The Round 8 issue of Big League is on sale at newsagents and at the grounds. Digital version also available at Zinio.