Roosters determined to learn from 2014
It highlighted just how hard it is to go back-to-back in the NRL these days – a star studded, premiership-winning Roosters side fading out of the 2014 finals series with a near-identical roster to the one that swept all before them in 2013.
A shock loss to Penrith in the opening week of the finals was followed by a near-disastrous fadeout against the Cowboys a week later before succumbing to arch rivals South Sydney in the Grand Final qualifier.
Coach Trent Robinson last week admitted the side wasn't quite in the same place mentally last year as in the title year in 2013 but insisted that had now been corrected.
This week back-rower Aidan Guerra was confident the lessons learned would help the side return to the top of the NRL tree in 2015.
"We've got a different mentality. What happened last year is in the past," he said.
"I think there is a different mind frame around the place [compared to last year].
"That's not saying that last year we weren't a 100 per cent focused because we were, but there's just something about learning lessons from failure that you don't quite get out of being successful, and I think last year we got a few lessons towards the end.
"This year everyone is working in that direction to prove that we learned that lesson."
He added it's no surprise that a club has been able to go back-to-back since the 1992-93 Broncos.
"It's been over 20 years since someone has gone back to back and surely rosters don't change that much from season to season for teams to go first to fourth," he said.
"There's teams that have been up there for a couple of years in a row but no-one has had that ability to go back to back.
"Maybe it's that you keep the things you were doing the year you won, but everyone else evolves. That's just a theory – it could be mental; it could be tactical."
The Roosters squad has a fresher look to it this year compared to last year, with players like Sonny Bill Williams, Luke O'Donnell and Dan Mortimer having departed from the 2013 squad but players such as Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Jackson Hastings stepping up and others such as Kane Evans and Dylan Napa maturing and improving out of sight in the past 12 months.
"There's some new fresh faces and with that they bring their own attributes and contributions to the side," Guerra said.
"We're pretty happy with where we are but we're not going to rest on that.
"We want to keep improving. You need to play your best game every week, especially in the finals."
Guerra debuted with the Roosters in 2010 but spent several years in the Storm system prior to that, and has also featured in the Queensland Origin squad in recent years, giving him a closer idea than most of the importance of players such as Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
"I was with Storm for four years and learned a few lessons and took a bit on board as to what it is to be a first grader," Guerra said of his time down south.
"Obviously with the calibre of players down there, if you can't learn something then you probably didn't want to learn.
"I've now moved onto the Roosters and very happy here but Melbourne is where I got the chance earlier on."
Guerra wasn't at all surprised the Storm shook off the loss of Billy Slater to finish in the top four.
"You can never write off a team with players like that. Now that they've got young [Cameron] Munster in the fold filing in quite nicely for Billy, they're back to a dangerous attacking outfit," he said.
"They've always prided themselves on their defence. But it was the attack that took a bit of time when they lost Billy. But now it looks like they've got it back."