After becoming the first coach to take his team to back-to-back premierships in 26 years, Sydney Roosters mentor Trent Robinson was asked when he would start thinking about a three-peat.
“Soon,” Robinson said. “It’s not being arrogant, you just do.”
It was typical response from the 42-year-old whose third premiership win with the Roosters has now put him in the super-coach category.
The 14-8 triumph over Canberra ensured Robinson became just the 10th coach in premiership history to win three grand finals, joining such illustrious names as Jack Gibson, Wayne Bennett, Craig Bellamy, Tim Sheens, Clive Churchill, Norm Provan and Ken Kearney.
Those seven are the only men to have won more premierships than Robinson but he has achieved the feat within his first seven seasons of coaching – something not done since Churchill had charge of South Sydney from 1967 to 1975.
It’s been a remarkable rise for someone who made just four NRL appearances in a playing career which ended in Toulouse, where he began coaching in 2005.
Match: Roosters v Raiders
Grand Final -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
- Nine Network
Robinson took charge of the Roosters after another stint in France, during which he took Catalans to the 2011 Challenge Cup final, and had an immediate impact, guiding the Bondi club to the 2013 premiership in his first season.
However, Robinson admits that he underestimated how difficult it was for a team to lift the Provan-Summons Trophy in consecutive seasons, as other coaches had been discovering since Bennett led Brisbane to back-to-back premierships in 1992 and 1993.
Learning from the experience, Robinson set about with a different approach after last year’s grand final defeat of Melbourne and few this season could recall a team better primed to achieve the feat since those great Broncos teams.
The preparation for the historic feat began last November and Robinson told his players that no season would be the same as 2018 so they would need to overcome new challenges to defend their title.
“You don’t have to work to make it different, life is different,” he said. “From one year to the next you have different experiences. Life is different so you allow that to be the case.
“You don’t search for the same, you don’t look for the same so I am not going to have to make it different [in 2020], it just will be. Plan it and let it happen. That’s what I will do.”
Despite losing halfback Cooper Cronk, there is little doubt the Roosters will start next season as favourites and they overcame his absence for 10 minutes after being sin-binned early in the second half to beat the Raiders.
The controversial decision was a turning point in the grand final, but not as many would have expected, with the Roosters stepping up while down to 12 men before finishing the stronger team.
“I thought that typified our season and I said to these guys what they have done is put something in the jersey that will be remembered for 100 years,” Robinson said. “It’s hard, it’s really hard and we have worked really hard and loved every minute of it.
“There have been lots of things thrown up this year and we know we have a very high-quality team but we also know we have outstanding characters in our team, great people that are going to get on with the job and that was the one last time they had to get on with the job.
“I think we have won games in different ways this year and if we are going to do what we did, if we are going to win two years in a row, you are going to have to get really uncomfortable - as uncomfortable as we have ever been before - and we did that. Then we took the small opportunities we had to win a game."
While there was controversy over referee Ben Cummins signalling six more tackles for the Raiders after a kick and changing his mind when Wighton was tackled, the decision was the right one and he could be heard repeatedly yelling at Canberra players that it was the last tackle.
Had the initial call not been overturned and the Raiders had scored with just eight minutes to go, there would have been even more fallout as the ball came off a Canberra player and assistant referee Gerard Sutton and touch judge Chris Butler advised Cummins of his error.
Wighton was forced to hand the ball over near the Roosters line and Tedesco scored at the opposite end in the ensuing set of tackles to seal the club's historic premiership triumph.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.