Despite all the adversities they have faced in the first half of this season, the Sydney Roosters continue to find a way to navigate through the torrent and remain up there among the premiership contenders.
The club’s injury crisis is among the worst in the NRL, with co-captain Jake Friend forced into retirement on medical advice, while the other co-captain, Boyd Cordner, has already ruled himself out of the State of Origin series and is no certainty to even return this season.
Further, Luke Keary, Brett Morris and Lindsay Collins all suffered season-ending knee injuries inside the first eight rounds, robbing the side of experience in the backline, halves and forward pack.
Keary’s injury was suffered in Round 3 against the Rabbitohs at Stadium Australia, after which many feared for the Roosters’ immediate premiership hopes.
That paved the way for 18-year-old rookie Sam Walker to make his first-grade debut the following week against the New Zealand Warriors, and he has more than impressed in the seven games he has played since being thrust into the hot seat.
So much so, in just his second game against the Sharks, he scored his first NRL try and set up three others as the Chooks came from 18-4 down midway through the second half to win by 26-18.
His impressive form has seen him rewarded with a two-year contract extension, though coach Trent Robinson joked that he would’ve extended it by a decade “if he had his own way”.
Veteran winger Brett Morris was also in scintillating form for the side, having scored eleven tries in eight games including two hat-tricks, until he suffered the dreaded ACL injury in the Round 8 thrashing of the Knights in Newcastle.
At the age of 34, and having played 275 NRL games since debuting for the Dragons in 2006, it was all but certain that he had played the final game of an illustrious career that also includes a premiership with the Red V back in 2010.
In that same match, Queensland forward Lindsay Collins also suffered a season-ending knee injury, after which the Roosters’ change-rooms post-match resembled the mood as if the team had lost rather than won.
Then, the following week against Parramatta, back-up playmaker Drew Hutchison suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung when he fell victim to a pair of errant knees from Eels counterpart Dylan Brown in the first half of their 31-18 loss.
But despite all the adversities, the Roosters continue to soldier on, with their fighting qualities on display in their 30-16 win over the North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium last Saturday night.
The Chooks shot out of the blocks, leading 18-0 in the first half, and were about to be run down in the second half until a masterclass from acting captain James Tedesco saw them register their seventh win from ten starts this season.
Sam Walker had his worst individual game as he only booted two goals from five attempts and was outplayed by Cowboys back Valentine Holmes, who had inspired his side’s comeback to the point where they were within two points at 18-16 in the second half.
In the end, however, Tedesco may have settled the short-term argument as to who is the best fullback in the competition, with fierce competition coming from the Storm’s reigning Clive Churchill Medallist, Ryan Papenhuyzen, and Manly’s Tom Trbojevic, in recent weeks.
With Boyd Cordner to miss the entire State of Origin series due to his concussion woes, it is likely that Tedesco will again captain the Blues in this year’s series, in which his side will be eager to regain the shield they lost to Queensland six months ago.
On the topic of Cordner, while he is slated for a mid-season return, there is the chance he may not even feature for the Roosters this year, should further medical advice force him into retirement as was the case for Jake Friend earlier this season.
The Taree native, who turns 29 next month, has not played since Origin I at Adelaide Oval last November when an attempted tackle on Felise Kaufusi resulted in him suffering another head knock and being forced to miss the remainder of the series.
In the meantime, Tedesco will continue as interim captain and will again lead the side into battle when they face the Brisbane Broncos at the SCG this Saturday night, during which their co-captain Jake Friend will be honoured.
The Chooks will start hot favourites to heap more misery on the injury-hit Broncos, whom they outscored by 117-12 in two matches last season, including by a landslide 59-0 at Suncorp Stadium in Round 4 last year.
Another win will see the Roosters keep in touch with the top four, before they face tougher clashes against the Raiders and the red-hot Panthers at the foot of the mountains on either side of a trip to the Gold Coast to face the Titans as well as a bye in the following month.
If the men from Bondi Junction can pull through the next few matches without suffering any more damage to its already-heavy injury toll, then who knows how much damage they can cause come September, that’s if they get there, of course.