Roosters 2017 season review
They started the year with a ferocious 40-minute onslaught against the Titans only to take their foot of the pedal in the second stanza, and in essence, that first round performance was the Roosters' season in a nutshell.
In patches they were arguably the most destructive side in the NRL Telstra Premiership. However, rarely – maybe once or twice – were they able to put it all together for 80 minutes, with players guilty of clocking off for extended periods before they lifted when necessary to claim the two competition points.
The fact they got within a win of a grand final berth is an incredible achievement given how they fared 12 months ago when the Tricolours had the year from hell to finish 15th after snaring three straight minor premierships.
Instead of overhauling his roster, coach Trent Robinson made subtle changes, bringing in veteran fullback Michael Gordon and premiership-winning five-eighth Luke Keary to add stability to an already talented spine.
It didn't take long for them to gel, with the men from Bondi winning their first four games; a platform that set the tone for an outstanding regular season that saw them finish behind only the minor premiers, Melbourne, on the ladder.
They headed into their home preliminary final against the Cowboys as the raging favourites but produced 13 errors – something that plagued them throughout the year – to fall in the penultimate round of the finals for the third time in four seasons.
Where they excelled: It mightn't be the most intimidating venue in the NRL but the Roosters turned Allianz Stadium into a fortress with nine wins from 10 matches in the regular season. Seven of those victories – as well as their qualifying final win over the Broncos – were by six points or less; a trait that defined them in 2017. The Tricolours claimed a record-breaking 12 wins by a converted try or less with the troops able to produce clutch plays in the big moments on an almost weekly basis.
Where they struggled: As touched on earlier, ball control proved to be their Achilles Heel this season. The Roosters made more errors (303) than any other team in the Telstra Premiership and their carelessness was on full display in the preliminary final with Latrell Mitchell sending two kick-offs dead, while Blake Ferguson also came up with a couple of costly errors coming out of trouble. Their inability to keep the foot on the throat of opponents left their fans with unnecessarily high heart rates and meant they could never relax in the final 10 minutes. Their best could have won them the competition, but as the Cowboys showed, 80 minutes of consistency will generally defeat patches of brilliance.
Missing in action: While Luke Keary and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves were able to play all 26 games, virtually every member of the Roosters squad spent some time on the sidelines with niggling injuries. Sio Siua Taukeiaho missed the first six rounds of the season as he recovered from a serious knee injury, co-captain Boyd Cordner missed eight games due to State of Origin commitments as well an ongoing calf complaint while his partner in crime Jake Friend was sidelined with a hand injury. Fullback Michael Gordon missed a month with a pec injury while Latrell Mitchell was sent back to reserve grade for a few weeks; an experience that brought the best out of him as the season wore on.
Turning point: The Round 8 win over the Dragons on Anzac Day solidified the Roosters as genuine premiership contenders and ended a hoodoo that had plagued halfback Mitchell Pearce for years. The 13-12 win in golden point typified their gritty nature in 2017 and also saw Pearce end a field goal drought that dated back to 2011. He would kick another one-pointer the following week in a losing effort and landed his third - and best - field goal of the season in a thrilling 25-24 extra-time win over the Storm.
Hold your head high: Having used a plethora of halves combinations last year, Keary's arrival provided the stability the Roosters desperately craved. The former Rabbitoh exploded out of the gates with two tries on his club debut and backed it up with three try assists in Round 2. He led the club with 16 try assists and was a constant threat on both edges with his blistering speed and fancy footwork. Ryan Matterson was able to plug every hole he was asked to fill and looks set to be a star of the future. However, their best player was undoubtedly Boyd Cordner. The NSW Blues skipper was outstanding again in 2017 with five tries and countless carries that lesser players would shy away from. He is a natural born leader and arguably the best back-rower in the game right now.
2018 crystal ball: The Roosters will lose a bit of depth with Aidan Guerra and Connor Watson heading to the Knights but that's been offset by the acquisition of attacking weapon James Tedesco from the Tigers. His ability to create something out of nothing will make an already potent backline even more formidable. Their forward pack is world class, their halves are elite and they have plenty of talent waiting in the wings at Wyong and in the under-20s. It's easy to see why they are the early favourites for the title next year.
Conclusion: If you told the Roosters last year that they would finish one win short of the grand final then I'm sure they would have taken it. However, after all they achieved in the regular season, there will be a sense of 'what could have been' around Bondi. A third preliminary final loss in four years will hurt, but if they can cut out the schoolboy errors then premiership glory should be theirs in 2018.
Home Record: 11-3
Away Record: 7-5
Longest Winning Streak: Four games (Rd 1-4, Rd 24-Qualifying Final)
Longest Losing Streak: Two games (Rd 5-6, Rd 22-23)
Players Used: 26
Tries Scored: 92
Tries Conceded: 80