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For & Against: Will Roosters win three titles in a row?

Can the Roosters be the first team since the mighty Parramatta side of 1981-83 to win three straight titles or will the loss of Cooper Cronk and Latrell Mitchell bring them unstuck?

Trent Robinson's quest to create more history with the Tricolours will be one of the most intriguing sub-plots of the 2020 NRL season.

The Roosters know what it takes to win big games and the still boast an array of superstars including James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho but is it realistic to expect Kyle Flanagan to fill Cronk's shoes and steer them to glory?

Each week in 2020, two NRL.com experts will debate the game's hottest topics in our new For & Against series, kicking off with the Roosters' chase for a threepeat.

For

NRL.com reporter Joel Gould

The Roosters have mastered the art of winning sudden-death finals on the back of defensive clout and intensity that goes up several notches when everything is on the line.

In their preliminary final and grand final displays of the past two seasons, they conceded three tries all up and never more than one in any game.

Match Highlights: Roosters v Raiders

That achievement alone, based on a defensive system and mentality designed to be at its best in September, is reason to believe a threepeat is well within reach.

Back-to-back was the Holy Grail of the NRL era after the Broncos' feats of 1992-93.

What made the achievements of those Brisbane sides so hard to replicate was a feeling that players, although committed to the cause, found it tough to find something extra in the tank to “climb the mountain” in consecutive years.

Joseph Manu magic

The Roosters exude the same “never satisfied” mentality as the Steve Waugh-captained Australian cricket team that won a record 16 consecutive Tests.

Robinson has a way of assisting his players to learn from the past but to live in the present and strive for a better future.

Consecutive titles are now history. What’s the next challenge and how do we get there? That is the attitude.

It is all very much about who the Roosters have, not who they've lost.

Sure, Cooper Cronk has retired and Latrell Mitchell has joined Souths. Both were huge contributors to their dual title success. Cronk is on board in a coaching capacity to mentor his replacement. Kyle Flanagan will slot into Robinson’s system while improving his own skills.

Examine Parramatta's premiership side of 1983 and nine of them had played in the 1981 decider.

Take a look at the Roosters' grand final side of 2018 and James Tedesco, Daniel Tupou, Joey Manu, Luke Keary, Jake Friend, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Boyd Cordner, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Victor Radley, Mitchell Aubusson and Isaac Liu are still front and centre of their quest for a threepeat.

That continuity, and big-game experience achieved along the way, has the Roosters in great shape to repeat what Jack Gibson’s Eels did in the early 1980s.

Five key match-ups of the Roosters' 2020 draw

Against

NRL.com senior reporter Margie McDonald

There's a good reason – in fact there are five good reasons – Parramatta were able to win three premierships in a row from 1981-83.

They are Mick Cronin, Steve Ella, Eric Grothe, Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling. That stellar backline provided consistency and class through those three seasons.

Take the Test halfback in Sterling, your centre and goal kicker in Cronin out of that Eels team at the start of the 1983 season and do they win that third title? Do the Eels even get close to the decider against Manly that year?

Cooper leaves a massive dent

Take the former Test halfback in Cooper Cronk and your goal-kicking centre in Latrell Mitchell out of the Roosters' side and can they win a third in 2020? Think of their contributions to the 2018 and 2019 titles (and seasons) before you answer.

Cronk and Jake Friend brought calm and steady hands and heads to the halfback-hooker roles but that partnership is also splintered with the halfback's retirement.

Sterling and his hooker Steve Edge were another constant through those three Eels grand final wins.

The 1983 Eels celebrate their grand final win.
The 1983 Eels celebrate their grand final win. ©NRL Photos

The carrot dangling in front of all the Roosters players for so long – back-to-back NRL premierships for the first time since the Broncos of 1993 – has now been eaten.

Can a group of players find that hunger for another carrot?

Physically and skilfully they can make a third grand final in a row. The Storm (2006-09, with a few asterisks) and Roosters (2002-04) have already done that in the not-too-distant past.

But can the Roosters delve into the deep recesses of their minds to drive their bodies so hard for a third year in a row, when the NRL's best kicking and organising halfback and the NRL's top scorer from last year are both gone?

And remember, the Roosters already have three premierships from the past seven years.

We'll see how that waters down motivation a little further.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.