We’re now midway through June, and the NRL table is starting to take shape. Unsurprisingly, 2016 champions Cronulla Sharks are once again in the mix towards the top of the league but it may prove prudent to side with the Sydney Roosters this year. Trent Robinson’s side have struggled on the big stage since last lifting the title in 2013, but this could be their time to shine.
Last season, the Roosters finished a lowly 15th after a disappointing campaign. Sydney were poor for the most part of the season, winning just 6 of their 24 regular season matches – recording the 3rd worst points difference total in the NRL (-133). If truth be told, the Roosters failed to get going after a slow start to the campaign; Sydney were rock bottom five weeks into the new season after losing all five games, and never really got any better.
This year though, Sydney appear to have looked at where they went wrong and moved to make amends… and so far, it has certainly worked. The Roosters are now 2nd in the league, just four points behind runaway leaders (and premiership favourites) the Melbourne Storm. Looking at the statistics, Sydney have our 4th ranked offense, which has racked up more points (310) than all but one of their NRL rivals, and they will take some beating ahead of the playoffs.
At the time of writing, bet365’s Rugby League betting shows Sydney at 5/1 to win the Grand Final this season. Realistically, Melbourne are firmly in control of the regular season title but the bigger prize remains up for grabs. When it comes down to the playoffs, it all depends on how you perform on that given day (just ask the 2016 Storm) and Sydney have as good a chance as anyone else.
In terms of playing a free-flowing brand of attacking footy, Sydney are up there with the best in the business. Robinson demands that his side go out to thrill and that philosophy won’t change too much ahead of the postseason. At time of writing, Michael Gordon, a key figure for the Roosters, tops the NRL points scoring charts with 116 and his reliability at the back, coupled with his exceptional goalkicking, should help Sydney to flourish in the coming months.
Defensively, the Roosters have to stay compact. We have them as our 6th ranked defense, and if they’re going to make a deep run, this is the side of the ball they need to focus on. Jake Friend is perhaps Sydney’s biggest star on the defensive side, and their solidity relies on his impact. Friend ranks 3rd in the league in tackles so far this season (591). For the most part, Sydney’s defense has been solid, but Robinson will be demanding they lift the intensity as the playoffs draw closer, in order to get nearer to the levels of Melbourne and Cronulla.
Last year, 11 players made debuts for Sydney, and those youngsters have shone this season. The Roosters are gearing up for a shot at the NRL title and they certainly have the strength and depth to compete with the Storm and the Sharks. An injury to Friend would hurt, but Robinson will be confident of a surge to the Grand Final. It would be a magnificent story if Sydney can bounce back after a torrid 2016 season to win the NRL’s ultimate prize this campaign. And it’s a story they’re capable of writing.