With the trial period now over, and Round 1 just days away, Roosters.com.au caught up with new assistant coach Jason Taylor to chat over all the important factors for the Tricolours in season 2013.


From how JT felt the pre-season had gone, to who stood out for him in the victories against Manly and the Wests Tigers, the new-look coaching staff and leadership group at the Chooks this year and of course the highly-anticipated clash with his former Club on March 7.


Taylor, who has spent the past two seasons as Head Coach of the Sydney Roosters Under 20s team, even discussed the depth created within the group through the addition of players formerly under his leadership in the National Youth Competition (NYC).


We even managed to squeeze in a question, to one of the best analysts in rugby league, about who he thought were the teams to beat this year.



2013 PRE-SEASON


The Roosters have welcomed a host of new faces to the club in 2013, even as late as just a few weeks ago when former NSW and Australian enforcer Luke ODonnell signed from Huddersfield in the English Super League.


With nine new names in the full-time NRL squad, including three former NYC stars in Henare Wells, Kane Evans and Dylan Napa, the job hasnt been an easy one for a Coaching Staff also working together for the first time.


I think the pre-season has gone well. Weve had a fair bit to do and when you have as many changes as weve had, youve got to start from scratch and it takes time to get things in place.


Weve got a lot of improvement to do in many areas to get where were capable of getting to as a team, but I think weve done a good job in getting the ball rolling and well be ready to go Round 1 although therell be a lot of improvement in us as the season goes by.



TRIAL MATCHES


Starting with a dominant display against the Sea Eagles in Gosford a fortnight ago and followed on by an entertaining victory over the Tigers in the Foundation Cup last weekend, the boys from Bondi have claimed two from two in their opening hit outs of the new year.


However, Taylor isnt getting too excited just yet as the reason for these matches isnt just to claim wins.


I think the trials went well for us and we certainly did well in the areas that we wanted to.


The scoreboard is irrelevant in those games, you just want to see that what weve been practicing is getting through and we saw that. We were able to make some good improvements from game one to game two, in certain areas that we wanted to, particularly in the attacking side of things from my point-of-view.



PRE-SEASON STANDOUTS


One of the new faces at Moore Park this season is Tongan prop Sam Moa. Already capped at NRL level with Cronulla, Moa is back to prove a point in 2013 and has assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon to thank for his chance.


A team mate of Fitzys at Hull in the Super League, the former Roosters captain suggested the Hull fan-favourite to new coach Trent Robinson and following his trial form he seems to have lived up to Fitzys word.


Sam Moa was a stand out for me. Hes been fantastic at training and in both of the opening matches.


But plenty of the other guys did well, and theres a lot of competition for positions, which is a great thing.



COACHING STAFF


Robinson takes the reins of an NRL outfit for the first time this Thursday night, however is no stranger to rugby leagues biggest stage after stints as an assistant with both Newcastle and here at the Roosters.


Asked about how the new Coaching Staff have gelled since coming together late last year, Taylor smiled and answered with excellent only to continue on and say, I was really excited to be a part of the staff when I saw who it was going to contain. Were a pretty young and enthusiastic group and weve got some guys with plenty of experience at the same time.


Im really enjoying working day-to-day with the guys and I feel that everything is really heading in the right direction. But, as Ive said, were starting right from scratch so theres a fair bit to do before we get to where I think we can.



NEW LOOK SQUAD


Weve already mentioned a few of the stars who have become Roosters over the summer, however with the likes of Michael Jennings, Michael Oldfield and James Maloney joining the group, the expectation for success is something growing amongst rugby league circles.


JT, whos dealt with superstar squads in his time at Parramatta and down the road in Redfern too, is excited but isnt talking tough just yet as theres plenty of work still to be done to ensure the whole group is reading off the same page.


Any team would be excited about having the sort of guys we have, coming into the squad, and theyre great attacking players. But, Ive talked a lot already about the improvement that well make as time goes by.


And last but not least, there is the much-talked about return of Sonny Bill Williams which Taylor isnt thinking about in any other way than easing the already Premiership winner back into the 13-man code.


Sonny coming in late means its going to take a bit of time getting him to where we want to. Its early days.



LEADERSHIP GROUP


After 18 Tests for his country, 11 State of Origin matches, a Golden Boot and a Premiership ring in 2002, Anthony Minichiello will wear the captains arm band permanently for the first time.


A fan-favourite beyond any other at the Bondi Club, Mini will be accompanied by five Vice Captains in 2013 including Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner.


With former skipper Braith Anasta having joined the Tigers over the summer, the young Roosters outfit will certainly be looking to their new skipper to lead the way and Taylor thinks the signs are already positive since his appointment.


I think thats been a big area of improvement for us as we continue to move forward.


Weve got some young guys there, and I think its a great way that weve gone in giving some really young guys an opportunity to be a part of that group because the only way you get experience is doing it.


In a few years time the experience that Boyd, Junior, Jared and Jake Friend are going to have under their belts is superb.


Mini is doing a great job of leading that group. Hes really stepped into the leadership role in really strong fashion and its great to watch.



NYC PROMOTED PLAYERS


After two successive finals campaigns with the Under 20s, Taylor has brought with him a handful of his former stars to the NRL. Wells and big-men Evans and Napa are no strangers to the Chook Pen, however face the hard task of getting used to the life as an NRL player something Taylor thinks all of the new faces have done well so far.


Theyve done a great job. Theyve really handled the training well.


Thats the first thing, and people dont realise it but when you have pre-season with the NRL squad its the first time that you are training full time and its amazing how much work you can get into the players when theyre here most of the day, every day.


Its hard. And, they all love the sound of it but its hard.


Not only is it those contracted to the NRL squad who have featured in 2013s pre-season, but also a handful of current NYC stars who have trained alongside their heroes under the watchful eye of Robinson, Taylor, Fitzgibbon and new assistant and new NYC mentor Paul Green.


Samisoni Langi, Rhyse Martin, Jack Siejka and Brandon Tago have also joined the big boys and impressed Taylor and his fellow coaches.


Jack Siejka is a great example of that. He played a lot of 20s last year, and is still eligible for the NYC this year, and he had his first pre-season with the NRL squad this year and it was a tough slog for him but he never gave up for a second. What he got out of that experience were going to see that on the field when he plays with the 20s, but when it comes to next year and its his second full-time pre-season it will make such a difference. And that goes across all of those guys, who have come up and made the jump to the NRL squad.


Weve training really hard this pre-season and for them to have stepped up and go about it the way they have has been really good for them and really good for the whole group because theyve kept the bottom level up within the group.


There are guys like Mini who have been doing this over 10 years and then you talk about these guys who are doing it for the first time. Its really helped keep the standards up there, for us, which has been good for us.



NRL SEASON 2013 TEAMS TO BEAT


No coach likes the word benchmark attached to their team, however we couldnt help but ask Taylor who he thought would be the sides leading the way come finals football.


I think Canterbury will be the team to beat, although the Ben Barba situation is a question mark for them. But, if that wasnt where it is then Id definitely say they are the team to beat.


Melbourne will be thereabouts but the World Club Challenge takes a lot out of the teams that go over there and play it, and I think its very hard to back up but theyll be up there too.


And, Souths are probably a team who on the back of what they did last year who will take some beating in 2013.



ROUND 1 V THE RABBITOHS


Hes coached on both side of the fence in rugby leagues biggest rivalry and knows what it means to the players, staff and fans from both clubs. But, with the NRL set to be closer than ever this season, Taylor is adamant that the Roosters players remember it is just one game.


From a player and coach perspective it is just another game.


In Round 1 last season the Roosters had what was probably the win of the season and what a great win it was, especially that it was against Souths and means even more. But, come the end of the season the Rabbitohs finished third and the Roosters werent anywhere to be seen so, its just one game of many and thats how well be approaching it.


Its an important game because the first game, and getting off to good start, is always important. Having said that, when you talk to the fans all they care about is victory in this game and Ive had a number of them say that to me. Its exciting.


But, its a long season and we want to be there at the end. Not just the start.


We couldnt have said it better ourselves. Bring on Season 2013!



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