Here’s why the Roosters will be NRL premiers in 2022

The NSW government hasn’t made sports betting compulsory yet, but when they do, and I have to bet some of my ill-gotten gains on just one club to win this year’s competition, I’ll be going all-in on the Sydney Roosters to take out their third premiership in five years.

We all know the Roosters are coming off a horror 2021 season that not only saw them farewell captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend to early retirement, but also lose a number of key players due to serious injuries.

Despite this they still finished in fifth place, just out of the top four on for and against, and then made it as far as the semi-finals before being annihilated by Manly. For me, it’s a case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and while the Roosters injury woes would have killed the finals aspirations of most other clubs stone dead, they hung in there and kept swinging.

It’s worth noting that no team has won the competition in the last ten years after finishing any lower than third on the table and in each of the last five years, the premiers have come from the teams finishing either first or second.

Accordingly, if the Roosters are to be successful this year, they need to be aiming for a top-two finish, and they look likely to do that, not only because they look far stronger this year than they were in 2021, but also because most of their rivals for a top-of-the-table finish look weaker.

James Tedesco breaks through a tackle.

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Let’s start with the Roosters strengths. The most obvious of these is that they are a well-run club who’ll leave no stone unturned in their quest for success, and they are coached by one of the best in the business in three-time premiership-winning coach, Trent Robinson.

In addition to that, they have arguably the strongest squad in the competition. Their first-string spine of James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Sam Walker and Sam Verrills is one of the best in the league, and they have proven back-up options in Connor Watson, Lachlan Lam, Drew Hutchison, Adam Keighran, Freddy Lussick and Ben Marschke.

They also have some top performers in the outside backs in Joey Manu, Daniel Tupou, Kevin Naiqama, and Paul Momirovski, and will welcome young contenders in Joseph Suaalii and Billy Smith back from injury to add to their depth.

And what about their forwards. In Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Siosiua Taukeiaho and Lindsay Collins, they have three of the best front rowers in the game, and new signing Renouf Atoni should reach his potential in that company, while the Chooks’ back row of Angus Crichton, Sitili Tupouniua and Victor Radley is as good as any in the competition.

The injuries of last season also saw the Roosters build their forward depth and give some emerging players a chance in the top grade, and their back-up forward strength of Egan Butcher, Nat Butcher, and Fletcher Baker together with young giants in Daniel Suluka-Fifita, Naufahu Whyte and Tuku Hau Tapuha is impressive.

That’s some team, virtually without a weakness, and note that along with their coach, 11 of the Roosters squad have played in winning grand-finals, and know what it takes to lift the trophy.

So, what about their opposition? Who will challenge the Roosters for a top-of-the-table finish this year, and how are they shaping up? Obviously, last year’s top four of Melbourne, Penrith, Souths and Manly will all be in the mix again, with Parramatta probably the only other team to be a serious threat.

Premiers Penrith have lost some key players from their 2021 squad and will largely be replacing them internally, while both Apisai Koroisau and Viliame Kikau may already have one eye on the 2023 exit door. The team’s motivation may also just be diminished compared to last year given that they have now climbed that premiership mountain.

South Sydney look like a team whose premiership window slammed shut when Adam Reynolds missed that sideline conversion in the 76th minute of last year’s grand final, and you’d think that they’ll have difficulty bouncing back from that, particularly with the loss of coach Wayne Bennett, captain Adam Reynolds, and key players in Dane Gagai, Jaydn Su’a and Benji Marshall. I can’t see them replicating last year’s form.

Melbourne are another club that look to be in some disarray compared to recent years.

Off-season dramas involving some senior players, big Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s COVID vaccination carry-on and the loss of quality players in Josh Addo-Carr, Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes doesn’t make for a good start to the season. To make matters worse, four more of their starting forward pack will be heading north in 2023.

Manly edged the Roosters out of the top four last year and then bounced them out of the finals, and there’s no reason that they can’t challenge for the premiership this year.

While Tom Trbojevic lives and breathes they’d have to be a chance, but they’ll need lots of luck with injuries given their shallow depth, particularly in key spine positions. I’m not sure they’ve got the troops to go all the way.

Like Manly, Parramatta can really put it together on their day, as evidenced by their two victories over Melbourne last year. Also like Manly, they rely heavily on their fullback, and if Clint Gutherson doesn’t fire the Eels can struggle and drop their heads. I can see Parramatta making the top eight again, but I can’t see them finishing ahead of the other finals contenders mentioned above.

So, there you have it – the Roosters look primed to finish at the top of the table this year, and they know how to win once they get there. I just can’t go past another Roosters premiership in 2022.

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