"We can keep getting better".
That was the message in the Sydney Roosters dressing rooms after Sunday night's back-to-back grand final triumph against Canberra at ANZ Stadium.
As the players and coaching staff walked into the middle of an empty ANZ Stadium after midnight and stood in a huddle for about 30 minutes reflecting on the significance of what they had achieved, thoughts also turned to an elusive three-peat.
Having become the first team since the Broncos of 1992-93 to win back-to-back grand finals, the Roosters now have the chance to equal the feat of three consecutive premiership triumphs last achieved by the Jack Gibson-coached Eels of 1981, 1982 and 1983.
Besides Parramatta, only St George (1956-66) and South Sydney (1926-29 and 1953-55) have won three or more consecutive grand finals.
The Roosters had 13 members of the team which beat Melbourne in last year's grand final playing again in Sunday night's 14-8 defeat of Canberra and the only departure from this year's premiership-winning side is halfback Cooper Cronk.
Fans crave more success as Roosters players celebrate
While Cronk will be missed, the Roosters have signed Kyle Flanagan from Cronulla as his replacement and he merely has to slot into a well-oiled machine.
Many observers believe the 2019 Roosters were a better team this year than last season and it was notable that they have more time to rehearse things at training than opposition sides because of their familiarity with each other.
Think Cronk's cross-field hook kick for Daniel Tupou to score against St George Illawarra or the winger's in-goal catch and offload for captain Boyd Cornder's try in the Roosters semi-final defeat of Melbourne at the SCG.
Match Highlights: Roosters v Raiders
Their defence also appears better organised and structured than rivals and has become difficult to penetrate. The Rabbitohs, Storm and Raiders each managed just one try in finals matches against the Roosters.
The Roosters were able to win matches by different methods during the season – turning on a razzle-dazzle performance to thrash Wests Tigers 42-12 and grinding out a tough 24-18 defeat of Canberra.
They have five players who can lay claim to being the best in their positions in fullback James Tedesco, centre Latrell Mitchell, five-eighth Luke Keary, second-rower Boyd Cordner and prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
Since the Origin series, the Roosters lost just one of 11 games – a 16-10 defeat by Souths in Round 25 that they avenged with a 30-6 thumping a week later in the opening finals match.
The challenge for coach Trent Robinson will now be to maintain the momentum as the Roosters have created this year.
Get Caught Up: Grand Final Day
If they don't there are a handful of teams capable of knocking the Roosters from their pedestal headed by beaten grand finalists Canberra, who appeared to have the premiers on the ropes at various stages of the game but couldn't land the killer blow.
Melbourne, Souths, Parramatta and Manly also showed at stages this season that they have the ability to match it with the Roosters.
The immediate reaction of Raiders players after Sunday night’s grand final loss was that this was just the beginning of the Green Machine's revival. With England halfback George Williams joining the club next season and the confidence the players would have taken from going so close tthere is no reason the Raiders can't go one better in 2020.
Wighton:Tough one to swallow
It all depends on whether Cameron Smith decides to play again. The belief in Melbourne is that he will but without him the Storm are likely to struggle to remain the dominant force they have been for the past 14 seasons. Brandon Smith is a ready-made replacement at hooker, although he is a different type of player than the 400-game legend. Cameron Munster and halfback Jahrome Hughes are also both considered ball runners rather than playmakers.
South Sydney's first season under Wayne Bennett was widely considered a success but discipline and consistency were ongoing issues that need to be resolved if they are going to be a genuine premiership threat. The retirement of Greg Inglis was a setback and next season the Rabbitohs will be without experienced forwards John Sutton and George Burgess so they need Sam Burgess fit and avoiding suspension.
Retiring class of 2019 honoured
The difference that two big wingers in Blake Ferguson and Maika Sivo made to Parramatta this season was remarkable and they have strengthened their 2020 forwards stocks with the signing of Reagan Campbell-Gillard. But it remains to be seen whether the Eels have the class to continue their rise. The boost they get by playing at Bankwest Stadium is likely to be a factor once again.
If Tom Trbojevic can stay healthy, Manly are capable of beating anyone on their day but whether they have enough depth in their roster to become genuine premiership threats is the biggest question facing Des Hasler. In captain Daly Cherry-Evan, the Trbojevic brothers and props Martin Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake, the Sea Eagles have the nucleus of a very good team.