Roosters' reinvention a testament to Robinson
The Roosters' results in 2017 hark back to the team that won three minor premierships in succession between 2013 and 2015 rather than last year's debacle, but Michael Ennis sees some subtle differences in the way they are playing and believes it could take them deep in September.
The Tricolours face Ennis's former premiership-wining Cronulla teammates at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday afternoon and the Sharks' grand final hooker believes the Roosters are building into the season in the same way Cronulla did last year.
This time last year the Sharks were 11 games in to their club record 15-game winning streak and while the Roosters are not quite travelling along at that pace their win last week against the Storm has them in second position on 24 points.
Rather than relying on what worked for him in his first three years at the helm, Roosters coach Trent Robinson has allowed the style of his team to evolve and Ennis is in no doubt that it has contributed significantly to their resurgence.
"They've changed in a lot of ways," Ennis writes in the Round 17 issue of Big League this week.
"Jake Friend still comes out of dummy half occasionally, but he doesn't attack as much as he used to, because his halves are taking the ball to the line with runners either side. They can exploit the defensive line because they can play the short side so well.
"Years ago we saw the block plays and forwards tipping on come into the game, but it's all changed since the interchange has come down and the referees have become pedantic around the ruck.
"We still see some wrestling from time to time, but it's certainly improved and the ruck has sped up.
"It's the sign of a great coach when they can evolve and Trent has done that, rather than just sticking with what worked for him for all those years where they won the minor premierships and the 2013 Grand Final.
"The game is still similar, but it's changed in some areas, and he's been smart enough to move with it.
"It's the mark of a modern day coach – someone who is always willing to learn and change rather than being set in their ways."
While endorsing their premiership credentials, Ennis believes that rather than their halves, Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary, it is the two big book-ends up front who will determine just how far they go in 2017.
"I see a lot of similarities between this year's Roosters team and the Sharks of 2016," says Ennis.
"We were up towards the top of the ladder and our attack was really sharp at times. For one reason or another we didn't start too well, but we had enough firepower to get the job done.
"The key for the Roosters is keeping Dylan Napa and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves fit. The two props are vital to their premiership hopes, but they also have a lot of depth.
"Zane Tetevano and Nat Butcher are ready-made replacements if needed. Butcher, even though he has only played two first grade games, is good enough to play regular NRL at a number of other clubs."
The Round 17 issue of Big League has features on Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Titans half Ashley Taylor and Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans along with Benji Marshall and the top eight club spending sprees. On sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.