Chiming Into The Backline

Life-long Sydney Roosters fan Alan Katzmann has joined the Roosters.com.au team for the 2013 season and will contribute regular opinion pieces on subjects of interest to our supporters, and league followers in general.


A 12-year Member and Eastern Suburbs local, Alan is one of the tricolours most passionate followers and a proud member of the recently established Jack Gibson Club.


Last November the NRL released the 2013 season draw and, in doing so, allocated for the first time in its history dates and times for the first 20 rounds of the premiership. This is a great win for fans, enabling many to attend matches they may have missed in the past due to scheduling conflicts. For those of us who like to attend matches interstate and overseas, the ability to book travel and accommodation earlier than in the past represents a significant cost saving. But the draw has far greater implications than my bank balance.


With 16 teams playing 24 matches each over 26 rounds, which teams you play twice, and where and when you play them, can have a significant impact on your final ladder position. Further, the impact of State Of Origin on the NRL competition is immense. For the best part of two months -- from Monday 27 May after Round 11, when the Origin teams are picked for Match One, to the final match of Round 19 on 22 July -- many teams will play with their best players on Origin duty or having to back up from a midweek representative fixture. While this directly impacts on six of the 26 rounds (although byes during these rounds can lessen the impact for some teams), it can also affect the three rounds during the Origin period which do not precede or follow an Origin match, as well as several matches after Round 19 as many of our elite players feel the effect of an arduous representative season.


I would much prefer a 22 round competition with four stand alone representative weekends, but that certainly cannot happen until at least 2018 due to the terms of the current broadcast deal. We will leave a detailed argument on that for another day.


At least, however, we will break (as we did in 2012) after Round 6 for a one stand alone representative weekend (19-21 April), but even without club footy on that weekend, four teams (including the Roosters) will play on Anzac Day (Thursday 25 April) on a shortened preparation for many of the rep players.


So how have the Roosters fared in the draw, and are we advantaged or disadvantaged by it in comparison to the other fifteen clubs?


Six teams we play just once: Broncos (H), Cowboys (A), Storm (H), Knights (A), Wests (A), Titans (H). Three of these made the eight in 2012 and three missed out, but four are among the top eight favourites for the title, so this part of the draw is slightly favourable. In a random draw, a team like the Roosters who finished out of the eight last year would on average play 4.8 teams from last years top eight twice in the following season (we play five), but such a team would also be drawn to play an average 4.8 of the top eight premiership favourites twice. We play just four such teams twice in 2013. In short, the Roosters can be reasonably pleased with the draw in this respect.


Overseas/interstate trips

We play the Warriors in Round 2 on Saturday at 5.30pm EDST, and the Cowboys in Round 10 on Saturday at 7.30pm. Given that NSW based teams average four matches at the various venues in Queensland, Melbourne and New Zealand and we have just two in 2013, should be seen as clearly advantageous. For those fans based in Sydney, this may be your best opportunity yet (certainly since 1995) to tick off attending every Rooster premiership match in a season from your bucket list, with just two long away trips, and both scheduled well in advance. Obviously for our many fans in South East Queensland it is very disappointing for you not to have the Roosters visit in 2013, but hopefully this is an aberration and you will get the opportunity to see them at least once live in 2014 and beyond.


Back-up after Origin

We play the Eels away in Round 13 on a Friday night, Manly at home in Round 16 on a Monday night and the Sharks at home in Round 19 on a Saturday night. Will the total number of Origin players from these three clubs be greater than the average from the Roosters? We might need to wait a while to assess this aspect of the draw, but it is probably not too bad.


Play without Origin players

We play the Bulldogs away in Round 15 on a Friday night. For the other two rounds (12 and 18) where teams are without Origin players, the Roosters have their two byes. The Bulldogs had two players involved in last years Origin series (Josh Morris and Tony Williams, who was then at Manly), whilst the Roosters Mitchell Pearce was the NSW half back in all three matches. Centres and wide forwards are easier to replace than halfbacks, so if the Origin team make-ups are similar in 2013, the Round 15 draw is no help to the Roosters we would much rather play Melbourne.


Five-day back-ups

The Roosters have four of these in the first 20 rounds (so we might end up with five or even six for the season as a whole), including a trip to Townsville for a Saturday night game after playing at Brookvale on the previous Monday night. This is above average, and will make victories in Rounds 6 (Bulldogs H), 10 (Cowboys A), 15 (Bulldogs A) and 17 (Dragons A) that little bit more difficult.


Playing in the heat

While as spectators we prefer to watch the NRL in the daylight, where more tries are scored and handling is easier, this is not necessarily the case early in the season when matches are often played in conditions not conducive to quality footy. From that point of view the Roosters do not play their first daylight match until 25 April (and even that is at 4.00pm, well after daylight saving has ended), when conditions should be far more pleasant for playing. Our friends at Penrith conversely, for example, play their first four matches in March during daylight saving at either 2pm or 3pm, with three at Penrith and one at Campbelltown, where the benefit of a sea breeze is highly unlikely.


Stretches

The Roosters play just two away matches in the first eight rounds (nine weeks), but finish with only three of our last nine at home (although one of these away games (Wests Tigers) is at Allianz Stadium.


Blockbusters

Home matches against Souths (Round 1), Canterbury (Round 6) and the Anzac Day clash against St George/Illawarra (Round 7) are great opportunities for the club, but Rooster fans should ensure that the crowds we attract to our other matches at Allianz are not significantly below the crowds at these blockbusters.


With 13 matches (includes an away game against Wests Tigers) at Allianz for the first time in well over a decade, and the first 20 rounds already scheduled, excuses for not being there to cheer on your team are diminishing greatly. Our team will be highly competitive and the draw we have will allow us to maximise our premiership chances.


Those chances will only be enhanced if you get to as many games as possible. Update your calendar with all the match dates and times, and get behind the Roosters in 2013.



NB: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Roosters.com.au, the Sydney Roosters and its board of Directors or staff.