I cannot see the Roosters missing the grand final and if their defence stays in order, they’ll win the title no matter who they play.
They are very much the Real Deal as evidenced by their gritty 4-0 result over a fiercely committed Manly last Saturday night.
I went to that game and came away convinced I had seen the 2013 premiers.
Their attack was a little off-colour against the Sea Eagles but their defence – wow! It was a brick wall painted red, white and blue and I don’t think we’ve witnessed anything quite like it for 10 years, maybe more.
Manly made more metres with the ball, more line-breaks, had the better of the penalty count as well as the sets completion rate but couldn’t notch a solitary point.
The Roosters showed what sort of team they have become under Coach of the Year Trent Robinson. They scramble brilliantly if there has been even the slightest breach. Their line speed, frightening physicality and all-round commitment to the cause is amazing.
Manly, to be fair, weren’t far behind but they won’t have the luxury of a two week break between finals and you’d think they’ll struggle to sustain another battering.
They will get try merchant Brett Stewart back from injury but it might not be enough. Cronulla is their next opponent and they have the forward pack to make things just as physical.
As I see it, the only way the Roosters won’t finish as premiers is if something untoward happens to Sonny Bill Williams.
I know many Roarers think he is a media ‘darling’ but the effect he is having on this outfit is extraordinary. He has helped bring about a major culture change at the Bondi Junction club – every player seems to be more professional since he (and coach Robinson) came on board.
Over the weekend, I had a chat with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves about Sonny Bill Williams. He told me the Sonny Bill was a freakish trainer who had inspired every player in the club to strive for that ‘something extra.’
Jared said on a rostered day off last week, Sonny Bill Williams took himself to a gym for 15 three-minute rounds in the boxing ring. That’s above (and way beyond) the call of duty, but he is that type of athlete, that sort of person. A perfectionist, nothing less.
Much has been said about the Cowboys’ dramatic exit from the finals series, due largely to that seven point try by the Sharks’ Beau Ryan.
All I can really add is the thought that only good can come from this horrendous mistake by the officials involved.
We are now virtually assured that there will be an extra careful tackle count made by the refs in the remaining finals games, and that such a fiasco won’t taint the upcoming grand final.
I feel really sorry for the Cowboys who feel they have been dudded by the match officials in finals two years in a row. I am also disappointed their exciting run ended in such fashion and that Matty Bowen, in particular, had to leave the NRL on such frustrating terms.
What a fabulous player, what a wonderful advertisement for our game he has been!
Before closing, here are a couple more thoughts on the weekend action.
My player of the weekend
Jamie Lyon (Manly). The best centre on the planet. The way he repeatedly attracted defenders before sending The Wolfman away last Saturday was 10 out of 10.
The unsung hero
Sharks’ hooker John Morris hardly gets any write-ups but it was his magnificent tackle on Kane Linnett in the dying moments saved Cronulla’s season. It was simply superb for him to be in position to prevent that last-gasp try.
Dark horse team
Newcastle played terrific finals football to knock the error-riddled Bulldogs out of contention. I give them a huge chance of upsetting the Storm if they repeat that effort.