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Sydney Roosters season preview

Sydney Roosters season preview

Tue, Feb 21, 2017 - 07:00AM
By Martin Gabor‌‌, ‌NRL.com

What a difference a year makes. The Roosters headed into last year's campaign sans Mitchell Pearce (suspension) as well as Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (injuries) and unsurprisingly went winless through the opening five rounds. Life wasn't much better even with the premiership-winning trio as the Tricolours won just six matches to finish 15th. But a year's a long time in footy, and the Roosters are primed to make amends in 2017.  

All 16 NRL club season previews for 2017

Gains: Michael Gordon (Eels), Luke Keary (Rabbitohs), Liam Knight (Sea Eagles), Zane Tetevano (Wyong Roos), Paul Carter (Rabbitohs), Mitch Cornish (Eels), Brendan Santi (Blackhawks)

Losses: Vincent Leuluai (Storm), Sam Moa (Catalans), Tyler Cornish (Titans), Jackson Hastings (Sea Eagles)

What we know

There is no hotter team in rugby league than the Roosters at the moment after they surprised most pundits to take home the Downer Auckland Nines in February. Spurred on by a youthful squad brimming with attacking pizazz – namely tournament MVP Connor Watson – the Roosters took down the Panthers in a replay of the 2016 Holden Cup final. Sio Siua Taukeiaho (knee) is the only major injury concern heading into the new season, but the powerhouse lock forward is confident he will return by Round 5. 

Rookie watch

With 29 tries from 49 appearances over the past two NYC seasons, Johnny-Tuivasa-Sheck has no trouble finding the line. Furthering his claims for an NRL berth were his match-winning tries against the Dragons in the preliminary final, and then a week later against the Panthers in the Holden Cup decider. Also watch out for his NYC premiership-winning teammate Bernard Lewis who burst onto the scene with his match-winning try against the Storm at the Nines. The winger finished 2016 as the club's leading try-scorer (19) and tallied the same number of line breaks to again lead the way for the Roosters. Lewis was a shining light for the Junior Maroons, scoring a hat-trick in a losing effort, and the pair could well make their NRL debuts during the representative period. 

Depth

The addition of experienced No.1 Michael Gordon provides a steadying influence at the back, as well as a reliable goal kicker the Roosters have been searching for. The 33-year-old is joined by five-eighth Luke Keary who has made the move to Bondi after four seasons with arch-rivals South Sydney. His arrival means the in-form Connor Watson will likely start the season on the bench as the club's utility. Jayden Nikorima and Mitchell Cornish will also provide cover in the halves, while a bulked-up Ryan Matterson looks set to make the move to the forwards this year. Paul Carter, Liam Knight and Zane Tetevano are the other main inclusions for 2017, with the former a strong chance to earn a bench spot in Round 1. 

 

 

 

Fantasy watch

Jake Friend ($559,000) was the third-best player in NRL Fantasy last season and will again be a popular buy given he's roughly $70,000 cheaper than Cameron Smith. Boyd Cordner ($516,000) is owned by just 4.07 per cent of players despite averaging 54.5 points per game in 2016. It's hard to find much value in the backline with Michael Gordon, Latrell Mitchell, Blake Ferguson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall all capable of producing good scores, but it will be hard to fit them in at their price tag. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves ($330,000) looms as the value buy with the big man expected to play more minutes this year. Nat Butcher ($173,000) shapes as the club's cash cow for 2017. 

Crystal ball

You don't have to be Nostradamus to know the Roosters are set for a marked improvement from last year's campaign. A drama-free off-season and a relatively clean bill of health have many predicting big things from the Bondi Junction based club. A return to the top eight would be a pass mark, but don't be surprised to see them flirting with a top four spot come the end of the year. The last time they won the competition in the Year of the Rooster was 1945; will history repeat? 

All 16 NRL club season previews for 2017

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