Wind the clock back only one season and the Roosters are the minor premiers for the 3rd consecutive year. They consistently boasted the best defense in the competition and led the competition despite being the most penalised team in the NRL. The Roosters lost a fair amount of talent this year in James Maloney, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Michael Jennings and despite acquiring some handy replacements their season has fallen well short of expectation.
Looking at the Rooster rosters, it is bewildering how they sit in 15th place of the Ladder. Jackson Hastings and Ryan Matterson have put up some great performances in the halves, Latrell Mitchell is a star in the making while only Dale Copley has failed to deliver in 2016. The young halves have played well, but definitely would have benefited from lining up alongside a senior half like Maloney or Pierce all season. Still I don’t believe they are the reason for the Roosters slide down the competition ladder.
Why are the Roosters looking for a new fullback? Latrell Mitchell!! He is the first since Greg Inglis to boast such size and speed, and to be fair when GI entered the competition he was much smaller than the GI we know today. I understand that the young fullback is not a ball player, having yet to register a Try Assist and only throwing up 3 Line Break Assists for the 2016 season, but it is his debut season. The Chooks have already given him a full season at the back, it seems absurd to move him aside. I don’t know if he is happy to move to the wing and learn from a more experienced fullback, but I believe if he is unwillingly moved to the wing or relegated to the lower grades he will be poached by another club that will offer the No.1 spot.
Ultimately it is the defense of the Roosters that is to blame for their ambiguous season. It seems strange that losing a 5/8, Fullback and Center would cause a deterioration of defensive culture. For mine they still possess enough talent to be top 8 competitive. The Forwards need to dominate the middle third as they did in previous years and give these young talents something to play off the back of. While Trent Robinson needs to go back to the drawing board and re-instill the defensive culture of years past.