The Sydney Roosters are set for an enormous 2022 campaign after a season which was riddled by injury.
Any other team confronted by the problems Trent Robinson’s side faced during 2021 would likely have rolled over and fallen down the table. Instead, James Tedesco and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, backed up by plenty of depth players who turned into excellent options, dragged the tri-colours to fifth place on the ladder.
Now, they come into 2022 with an almost clean bill of health and youngsters who have developed far more than they ever would have in a normal season.
The Roosters are a club with a point to prove, and should the horrors of 2021 not repeat, this is a team who could go a long way.
Ins: Renouf Atoni (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2023), Paul Momirovski (Penrith Panthers, 2024), Kevin Naiqama (St Helens RLFC, 2022), Ronald Volkman (2022), Connor Watson (Newcastle Knights, 2023)
Outs: Dale Copley (retired), Boyd Cordner (retired), Jake Friend (retired), Matt Ikuvalu (Cronulla Sharks), Isaac Liu (Gold Coast Titans), Brett Morris (retired), Josh Morris (retired)
Star player: James Tedesco
The man they call “Teddy” was simply phenomenal last year. Taking over from Boyd Corder as not only club, but New South Wales State of Origin captain, the 29-year-old played 22 games, scoring nine tries, assisting another 22 and bringing in a kicking game as he forced nine drop outs.
He was also safe as a house in defence and averaged 182 metres per game. While he didn’t get the same credit as Cody Walker, Tom Trbojevic and Nathan Cleary, he certainly should have, and will be the key again in 2022.
Rising star: Joseph Suaalii
The Roosters have plenty of youngsters coming through the ranks, but the one set to break out in 2022 is Joseph Suaalii.
Rated as the most talented youngster in the game, he will likely line up on the wing and add to five his five appearances which saw him immediately rise to NRL level.
Most under pressure: Sam Verrills
Verrills comes into the new season as the player under pressure. Brandon Smith’s arrival in 2023 leaves him facing an exceptionally uncertain future, but not only that, Connor Watson’s arrival this year means there are too many parts to the puzzle.
Both Watson and Victor Radley are 80-minute players who would prefer to play lock, but have the ability to play at hooker. Any drop off in form for Verrils, even minor, could leave him on the outer of Robinson’s side.
Five matches to watch
Match 1: Round 2, vs Sea Eagles, at Sydney Cricket Ground (Fri, Mar 18, 8:05pm)
Match 2: Round 7, vs Dragons, at Sydney Cricket Ground (Mon, Apr 25, 4:00pm)
Match 3: Round 10, vs Eels, at Suncorp Stadium (Sun, May 15, 4:05pm)
Match 4: Round 24, vs Storm, at AAMI Park (Fri, Aug 26, 7:55pm)
Match 5: Round 25, vs Rabbitohs, at TBA (Fri, Sep 2, 7:55pm)
The Roosters may not be mentioned in the same breath as the Panthers and Storm when it comes to discussing who might go to the grand final, but they should be.
With a clean bill of health, the team who finished fifth last year have depth on top of depth heading into 2022, and they should go very close to winning the premiership, if not taking it out. Anything can happen in the finals, but it would be a shock if the Roosters aren’t in the top two on the ladder at the end of the regular season.