RTS key to Roosters hopes
Reeling from the long-term losses of both Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Mitchell Pearce, the Roosters' premiership aspirations now rest firmly at the quick-stepping feet of fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
That's the summation by Fox Sports commentator Greg Alexander who in this week's issue of Big League has outlined the particular aspect of each of the teams currently in the top eight that need to be firing come finals time.
In his final season at the Roosters before joining the Warriors next season, Tuivasa-Sheck has dwarfed the entire competition with his running metres and ability to beat the first defender on a kick-chase.
Like Greg Inglis at the Rabbitohs, Tuivasa-Sheck's kick returns have provided his forward pack with a platform from which to thunder down-field, a role which has become even more critical given that Waerea-Hargreaves' season is now over.
"Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been a revelation for the Roosters this year at the back and has already become their most important player," Alexander says in the Round 25 issue of Big League.
"His numbers have been incredible this year – he’s averaging 239 metres per match – however he’ll need to continue that trend if the Roosters wish to lift the trophy.
"He’s so important to so many different facets of their game. The momentum their forwards gain is often due to his kick-returns – minimising how far the Roosters' big men have to turn around – and his ability to get a quick play-the-ball is also vital.
"He's often the man to polish off their hard work too and he's not afraid to take on the line, scoring 11 tries and making 13 line-breaks this season."
While injuries have sent shockwaves through the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Cowboys in the past seven days, Des Hasler's Bulldogs are building momentum at the right time of the season thanks largely again to the influence of their forward pack.
Captain James Graham has missed a chunk of 2015 due to suspension and injury but Alexander believes if the inspirational Englishman regains top form, the 'Dogs will be a threat no matter where they finish on the ladder.
"Whenever the Bulldogs have made their famous finals runs in recent years it has come from the momentum and attacking play spurred from their forwards," says Alexander.
"Injuries to James Graham and Tony Williams this year have seen the club lack some of that creativity at times this year. Williams was averaging 3.5 fewer passes per match this year compared to last season and Graham has also made 1.6 fewer per match.
"Considering Aiden Tolman, Frank Pritchard, Josh Jackson, Tim Browne, Greg Eastwood and Sam Kasiano’s stats have all improved this season, and the Bulldogs have extra options in Moses Mbye and Brett Morris, if Graham can return to his best the Dogs will be dangerous as ever."
The Round 25 issue of Big League is on sale now at newsagents and at the ground. Digital version also available via Zinio.