2019 Sydney Roosters: A Rugby League Monster

The Sydney Roosters are looking to do what no team has done in the NRL era and win back-to-back premierships on Sunday.

While others have had their chance in the past, none have been favoured to be the first quite so heavily as the 2019 Roosters. With the best attack in the game scoring 25.8 points per game and second-best defence conceding just 14.4 points per game, the Roosters dominate on both sides of the ball.

Trent Robinson has always talked about this season from a long-term view. He rested Cooper Cronk for a game way back in May with the view he would be fit and firing for a match on the first weekend in October. He was careful with his State of Origin stars throughout the representative period, and has given players with a heavy workload a week off whenever he could.

While managing the workload of key players, Robinson has developed plug and play levels of depth. Any of the role players that have filtered through the bench this season can be relied upon to do the job if they're asked to on Sunday.

With this scintillating attack and stingy defence, the 17 that do run out on Sunday are expected to get the job done.

Attack

There is no better attacking team in the NRL than the Roosters.

They can score points in any way they please with a menu of options available through the various strengths spread across the field.

In Cooper Cronk, they have the organisation and the structure. He plays two or three tackles ahead of the rest of the team and keeps everybody in their place. The moments of individual brilliance aren't so regular, but they're still there.

His halves partner, Luke Keary, provides the youth, pace, and the flare to the key playmaking positions. A revelation since arriving from the Rabbitohs, Keary's influence on the side became the most obvious when he missed games due to injury. The Roosters scored 581 points at 27.6 points per game in the 21 matches Keary featured throughout the year. In the five he missed, they scored just 18 points per game.

Latrell Mitchell has been called the best player in rugby league this season. That was nothing more than talking heads looking for content. He's never been the best, but he's not far off on his day. The competition's top point-scorer, Mitchell has had his moments this season. Most notably, no opposition team has scored more points than him in his last 10 games at the SCG.

If anything, Joseph Manu has been the better of the two young centres in recent weeks. Taking over on the right side, he's developed a lethal partnership with Brett Morris who knows where to be when Manu gets his arms free for one of his rangey offloads or freakish flicks.

This Roosters attack runs on a reliable motor of experience, pace, strength and flare, but James Tedesco is the spark plug that gets it all firing.

The 26-year old has gone to another level in 2019 to be the premier player in the NRL.

He's scored 17 tries in 23 games this season while running for 205.6 metres per game (second in the NRL). Nobody has broken the line more than Tedesco's 23 linebreaks. If another Roosters does break it, or get far enough through to get their arms free, there's a good chance Tedesco is there with his 290 support runs ranking 19th in the competition.

Together, the Roosters score 25.8 points per game to lead the NRL.

The 57 tries they've scored on the left side are the most in the competition. Led by Mitchell, Keary and Tupou, the Roosters left side is lethal. However, the right-side has announced itself more recently to score 27% of the Roosters try down that side while 24% are scored through the middle.

Far and away the most efficient scoring team in the NRL, the Roosters score 1.06 points per tackle inside the opposition 20-metre line. The average across the competition is 0.72 points per tackle.

Their relatively high-risk style of play leads to 11.7 errors per game (second-most in the NRL), but when the Roosters hold the ball, they use it better than anybody else.

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Defence

Defence wins premierships.

The Roosters know that.

Teams that rank inside the top two defences in the NRL have won 11 of the last 13 premierships.

They finished Round 25 of the 2018 season with the best defence in the competition before going on to lift the trophy. This year, the Storm managed to pip them for the best defence title, but the Roosters only still only concede 14.4 points per game.

Cohesion has been a bit of an issue defensively for the Roosters in 2019.

Playing without Jake Friend who made over 1,100 tackles in each of the 2018, 2017 and 2016 seasons at a combined 49.9 tackles per game is sure to have had an impact. As a result, Victor Radley has jumped between hooker and lock while Sam Verrills is still finding his feet at dummy-half.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sio Siua Taukeiaho have only played 13 games together with injuries and suspension limiting the time the two have spent on the field as one of the games premier prop pairings.

Having players in key defensive positions throws a spanner into the works and it takes a few weeks to tighten things up.

Friend is the only first-grade regular missing time at the moment, and it shows in the Roosters recent defensive efforts. They've conceded just 8.6 points per game in their last six matches.

Teams need to hold possession when trying to get past the Roosters. With a rotation of mobile forwards keeping the line-speed through the middle and two of the best defensive edges in the game in Boyd Cordner and Mitchell Aubusson, the Roosters allow just 0.47 points to be scored on them for every tackle they make when defending inside their own 20-metre line.

There is no tougher team to crack at the moment, and the experience this squad gained from the 2018 Grand Final will only make them stronger.

Conclusion

If you're looking to create a rugby league monster, the end result wouldn't be too far away from the 2019 Roosters.

They have the experience and brute strength through the middle, the old head and young firecrackers in key playmaking positions, supreme attacking talent on the edges, and one of the best rugby league minds in the coaches box.

As a result, the Roosters are quite rightfully heavy favourites for Sunday night.

While more than capable of stealing the game in the premiership minutes towards the end, the Roosters will look to get on top early. This game is expected to be low-scoring so if the Roosters can pile up 10-12 points in the first half, the Raiders may not have enough in attack to reel them in.

We've seen the Roosters explode for 10 minutes and win the game there and then a number of times already this season. It's the mental side that can really get on top of the opposition. The "oh dear, here we go" thoughts that can drop heads and add to the pressure already building. That's what the Roosters will be aiming for with early points on Sunday night.

Should they fail to get up early, the Roosters players and staff will have every faith in the 80-minute process. Wear the Raiders down through the middle, promote slow or lazy defence behind the ruck, and give the individual attacking brilliance laden throughout the side every chance to find a match-winner.

The Roosters have the best chance of any side in NRL history to be the first to go back-to-back. Dominant on both sides of the ball and entering a Grand Final against a team unfamiliar with this portion of the season, the Stats Insider Model leans heavily towards the defending premiers.

It's the result most expect, but crazier things have happened in rugby league.

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Jason Oliver

As far as Jason is concerned, there is no better time of year than March through June. An overlap of the NBA and NRL seasons offer up daily opportunities to find an edge and fund the ever-increasing number of sports streaming services he subscribes to. If there's an underdog worth taking in either code, he'll be on it.

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