The Roar
The Roar



Roosters roster looks good on paper but lacking crucial ingredients to create recipe for premiership success

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2nd March, 2024

The Roosters’ premiership chances look good on paper but in all likelihood they are paper thin.  

They’ll be there or thereabouts this season but the reality is they are in a state of flux with too many players coming and going, not what they once were or a few years away from their peak. 

Premiership teams are built on a nucleus of key players being in the prime of their careers. 

Penrith have won three straight and managed to maintain a team capable of winning a fourth despite several high-profile departures because they have a core of stars who are in the sweet spot of their mid 20s when they are seasoned enough to know how to win big games without being too experienced when injuries and the fatigue of the annual NRL grind can bring about a collective drop-off. 

The Roosters have a spine containing two players who are past their best in James Tedesco and Luke Keary, and two more in Sam Walker and Brandon Smith who enter 2024 with question marks hovering over their reputations. 

Walker, who is likely a couple of years away from potentially becoming an elite playmaker, was dropped to NSW Cup before a knee injury wrecked his season amid “differences of opinion” from his family and the club over how the Roosters’ rigid systems were stifling his creativity. 


Smith struggled to replicate his Storm form in his first year as a Rooster with neck and thumb injuries compounding a lack of impact as a starting hooker. 

It’s much harder being in the run-on side and needing to generate momentum rather than coming off the bench behind Cameron Smith or Harry Grant when defensive lines are fatigued. 

One of the few Roosters stars in the prime of his career is Joey Manu, who is one of several players heading off at season’s end alongside fellow rugby recruit Joseph Suaalii, prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and possibly winger Daniel Tupou. 

Manu is undoubtedly the best centre in league but he is most effective when playing fullback where Tedesco has a mortgage on the No.1 jersey despite diminishing returns in the past 12 months in particular at club and representative level. 

Joseph Manu of the Roosters is tackled during the round six NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters at AAMI Park on April 06, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia

(Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Suaalii seems best suited to the wing at this stage of his career but with the flanks taken up, he is likely to be used more at centre where his limited passing proficiency is a problem. 

Lindsay Collins has become one of the best props in the NRL and Spencer Leniu’s arrival from Penrith is a major boost although he will also have to adapt to a changing role. 


After coming off the Panthers bench to start his career to run at tiring packs after James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota have skittles opponents, he now has the challenge of starting. It could be the making of him but he may also need time to adjust. 

Waerea-Hargreaves’ discipline was a liability on occasion last year with the old silverback seemingly intent on asserting his dominance over any young rival who raised his hackles. 

As a result he will not be featuring in Vegas due to one of his two late-season bans carrying over. He’s announced this will be his last season as a Rooster before a Super League superannuation swansong. If last season was any guide, it could be one year too many for the Kiwi international. 

Dominic Young is another marquee addition to the Roosters’ much-scrutinised roster with Wallabies winger Mark Nawanaqitawase to follow next year. 

Young forward Siua Wong is another Rooster on the rise but the likes of lock Victor Radley and Angus Crichton have stagnated with the second-rower left out of the 17 for Sunday’s Allegiant Stadium assignment against Brisbane. 

Nat Butcher is coming off a career-best season while Sitili Tupouniua is on the comeback trail after serious knee and neck complaints. 


It all adds up to a very good team but one with way too many problem areas to be a genuine threat to Penrith’s supremacy or other challengers like Brisbane, Melbourne and even bitter rivals South Sydney. 

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 01: Sydney Roosters head coach Trent Robinson talks with Sam Walker during the NRL Captain's Run at Allegiant Stadium, on March 01, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Roosters coach Trent Robinson talks with Sam Walker at Allegiant Stadium. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

They did well to recover from 14th spot five weeks out from last year’s finals to not only qualify in seventh but eliminate Cronulla at Shark Park and go within a whisker of doing the same to the Storm in Melbourne. 

But as has been the case every year since their most recent Grand Final win five years ago, they lacked the punch to go toe to toe with the true heavyweight teams. 

The last time coach Trent Robinson was faced with a Roosters team that was stuck on the fringe of contender status he was able to sign an elite halfback from Melbourne who was the catalyst for the 2018 and ‘19 title triumphs. 

Another Cooper Cronk is not walking through the door so unless Walker takes a massive leap forward or Keary discovers the kind of form which made him a Clive Churchill Medal winner six years ago, the Roosters will only be half a chance of being true contenders in 2024.