I generally try and maintain a pretty level head and remain objective when it comes to talking about the game as well as my team, the Eastern Suburb Roosters.
This article will walk both sides of that line, but I think every supporter earns that right after a grand final win to have a crack.
The game was fantastic, dour, tough, brutal and tight. Way too stressful for me.
Canberra Raiders and Ricky Stuart should be proud of their year. I have always had a softish spot for Ricky after the 2002 win and I hope they are able to take advantage of their window, though I am glad they didn’t on Sunday night.
Jack Wighton was fantastic as a big, hard running half. He’s old school in the mould of Laurie Daley, Brad Fittler and Trent Barrett. This is a guy the Raiders can build around and create a new generation of legends. He clearly deserved the Churchill Medal – he was outstanding, I was at a pub in Warrnambool to watch the game and so couldn’t hear the sound, but I was really sad to hear that Roosters fans were booing him. I hope they feel a bit of shame when they think back on that. Just really classless stuff.
Canberra just need another point of attack, and maybe George Williams will provide that next year, time will tell. They have the makings of a special team, and I hope they’re able to take advantage of it, because the NRL looks pretty open in 2020.
Raiders players, staff and fans should be really proud of their team – they were a bit of a laughing stock last year, and the transformation this year is really quite amazing. They are a tough footy team with a lot to like about the way they play the game, and with the likes of Jarrod Croker and Sia Solia in the club, it is obvious they will make their club and community better.
The Roosters had to work so hard to win that game. The defence in the second half was immense and won the match without a doubt. The ability to just keep turning up was amazing. Trent Robinson is now the greatest Roosters coach in history, going past the late Jack Gibson. He has won three grand finals in his short career, and who is to say he won’t win more. With him being a young coach, he has time on his side to chase Gibson and Bennett’s record. Is he now a Roosters coach or a career coach? Time will tell.
Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Daniel Tupou, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Mitchell Aubusson are now three-time premiership winners and will all go down in Roosters folklore as all-time greats. Their loyalty, work and drive over the last ten years has been the key to the club and is what everything else has been built around. I grew up in the same sort of area as Mitch Aubusson and everyone I have met who knows him or played with or against him speaks so highly of him. He deserves to become the most capped Rooster of all time next year.
James Tedesco and Cooper Cronk are just incredible, perhaps two of the greatest signings for the Roosters of all time, ahead of the likes of Jack Gibson, Brad Fittler, Sonny Bill Williams and Gus Gould. Cronk is all class and the Storm should be proud of the men they have helped shape and grow. Cronk is what our players should aspire to be like.
I feel very lucky he would choose to risk his reputation and move away from something so familiar to join my club and make it better by bringing everything he has to the team. He retires a legend, having won four grand finals. He is somewhat difficult to rank in the conversation of all-time greats. Is he now ahead of the likes of Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis or Johnathan Thurston? I don’t know.
James Tedesco is well on his way to creating one of the all-time great careers a dual premiership winner, Dally M winner, and Brad Fittler and Wally Lewis medal winner. He has quite the CV. He could become New South Wales’s greatest ever Origin fullback, and his club career is going from strength to strength.
This team now belongs with some of the greatest teams to play this game. The early 1990s Raiders, the 1992-93 Broncos, the Bulldogs and Eels of the 80s and the 1974-75 Roosters. This current Roosters squad now belongs with these teams, and history will forever link them.
The Roosters are the team of the decade, with the Storm not too far behind. Both clubs have been incredibly dominant over the last ten or so years and the rivalry is one that I hope can continue to build.
Finally I will put my two cents in on the refereeing controversy, because everyone else has. The trainer thing is a weird rule, one I don’t understand, but it has been clear. The NRL should change this and move on. Either Canberra should have got the scrum or it should have been a changeover – whichever, really. I still think Luke Keary should have got a penalty – the six again call is something I still can’t believe, and I’m not sure if I have seen something similar in any sport.
I don’t really have an issue with the decision – I thought it hit Croker Roosters ball – but the way referee Ben Cummins got there was clearly wrong,
I don’t know what the game should do in this situation. Should it take the earpieces out so he hasn’t got three or four voices in his ear? Do we go back to one referee? The NRL needs to be proactive here and let fans know that this error of procedure won’t happen again.
As a Roosters fan I don’t think the call cost the Raiders the game – they had 20-odd play-the-balls in the Roosters 20 compared to one for the Roosters, so they had more than enough chances. I think the Raiders lost a chance to win the game, and that happens in every game every year through referee calls, good defence, poor attack, a dropped ball or Will Chambers not seeing Cronk unmarked on the inside. It’s rough for the Raiders, and I have nothing but respect for the game they played. I hope they break through to win it soon.
But whatever your opinion, the 2019 NRL grand final will at least be remembered.