Something happened to the Roosters in the week leading up to their 60-8 hammering to Souths. It was something that cannot be explained, something beyond the rigorous systematic enterprises of science and Sonny Bill Williams’ rig.
The Bondi club’s quest for a three-peat ended at the hands of Canberra on Friday night, with Trent Robinson’s men bundled out with three straight defeats to end their dynasty and thusly, make rugby league liveable again for 15/16ths of the game.
The all-conquering side was unrecognisable as it limped to the season’s end as a shadow of its former self, with execution in attack misfiring, defence uncharacteristically flimsy, and silverware envy conspicuously lacking.
Many have traced their demise back to that fateful Saturday night at ANZ Stadium, when the dominant Tricolours went from an imposing Death Star casting a shadow over the looming finals, to a side with Mitch Aubusson at hooker.
Even without Victor Radley, Sam Verrills, Cooper Cronk and Latrell Mitchell, the Roosters approached the final rounds on-track to earn comparison to icons like the 11-straight Dragons and 1990s Broncos, but ultimately ended up alongside the 2020 Eels and Greg Norman.
Whether it was COVID, chemistry or Cody Walker, whatever occurred in that dismantling by Souths was a phenomenon that has yet to be explained by anyone, not even the world’s great minds like Socrates or Gordie Tallis.
It was akin to the Roosters passing through the Bermuda Triangle, that paranormal patch of ocean in the North Atlantic notorious for swallowing up aircraft and mega-ships, a mythical geographical freak of nature that cannot be navigated with technology or Nick Politis.
After a fast opening ten minutes against the Rabbitohs, the Roosters entered the Triangle to never return. Their radar was scrambled, with players throwing passes that missed targets and mythical forces bending flight equipment and George Williams grubbers.
Their impenetrable defence leaked 111 points in the next three weeks and not even the coach was spared, with Robinson bamboozled into obscure positional calls before being dragged by Ricky Stuart into a feud that didn’t exist.
The Roosters’ demise has resurfaced one of league’s most intriguing enigmas, one that has bemused experts since the dawn of time: why outstanding teams don’t remain outstanding forever and how this can be traced back to certain catalysts, like fatigue or Kyle Flanagan.
As per protocol for disassembled dynasties, the full responsibility is starting to fall with the halfback. Despite being in his first year at the club, while also replacing Cronk and still racking up bulk points, many are suggesting it’s probably time for a change. After all, you can’t tolerate a player who can’t win a three-peat in his first season.
As such, pundits have predicted the club will punt the tired 22-year-old for youthful prodigy Sam Walker, or simply head back to market to regain their bearings by stockpiling more elite talent to arrest a diabolical slide to the depths of the bottom of the eight.
But the question will remain over 2020: was it the uncertainty of a disrupted season? Was the loss of Cronk, Mitchell, Kevin Hastings and Dally Messenger always going to eventually return to bite?
Perhaps it was simply the aged and fatigued? Or something else other than Wayne Bennett?
Nevertheless, if anyone needs us Roosters fans, we’ll be retracing our team’s every movement from the final week of the season to find whoever it was that didn’t respond to the chain letter.