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.


DEBUNKING THE MYTHS ON PLAYER DEVELOPMENT


For many years detractors of the Sydney Roosters have bemoaned the lack of juniors produced by the club and have doubled down on that bizarre criticism to somehow question the legitimacy of any successes enjoyed by the Roosters over the past 40 years. I call the criticism bizarre as it is just not possible for any club to produce juniors in significant numbers to become NRL players when that club is restricted to a junior area the size of that given to the Roosters. In fact, despite the massive growth in population outside of the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney over the past 105 years, the Roosters junior boundaries have in fact contracted since 1908, with the loss of key Eastern Suburbs localities within the city of Randwick during the early part of the twentieth century.


We dont conduct state or federal elections on boundaries based on population numbers from early last century, but some Rooster critics with an axe to grind are prepared to ignore the basic demographic reality that Sydney (and NSW) has changed dramatically over the past century and use this ridiculous argument (lack of juniors) to denigrate our great club. Expecting the Roosters to compete on junior numbers with clubs with over ten times the number of players is akin to expecting Luxembourg to be regular finalists in the Euro soccer finals.


So lets disregard this irresponsible and immature criticism but instead judge the Roosters player development on the only criterion that fairly measures all teams on a far more equal footing. That criterion is, and should always be, the number of players who make their NRL debuts at each club. Looking at the Roosters since the major changes at our club in the mid nineties certainly put paid to any suggestion that the Roosters pillage the established talent of other NRL clubs. While we are, and will always be, a recruitment club due to the ongoing failures of league administrators to adjust junior league boundaries to give each club a fair share of potential junior league players, the Roosters have not purchased an inordinate number of established NRL stars since 1995, but instead have continually developed players from within to fill the bulk of their NRL roster. The recruitment this year of established stars such as Sonny Bill Williams, Michael Jennings and James Maloney has been the first time in many years that the club has made such an investment in players developed from outside our own systems.


118 (or 122 if you include players who came directly from the English Super League) of 205 players who played for the Roosters from 1995 to 2012 made their NRL debuts for our club.


To best explain how I like to categorise players at NRL clubs, I have listed below the current Roosters top 25 (replacing Tom Symonds with Isaac Liu) and broken them down by development path to best illustrate how the Roosters develop young men into NRL players.


Category 1 (joined Roosters before turning 18)


Anthony Minichiello: Joined the club as a 16 year old, playing in the premiership winning SG Ball side of 1997. Played SG Ball again in 1998 and under 20s in 1998 and 1999, before making his NRL debut in 2000, aged 19. Played Junior Kangaroos in 1999.


Shaun Kenny-Dowall: Joined club as a 17 year old from New Zealand, playing SG Ball in 2005. Played SG Ball again in 2006 as well as under 20s and played for the Junior Kiwis later that year and again in 2007. Made his NRL debut in 2007 aged 19 and made his test debut for New Zealand in the same year.


Mitchell Pearce: Joined club as a 16 year old in 2006, and was rushed straight into under 20s. Played Australian Schoolboys in 2005 and 2006, the second year as captain, before making his NRL debut in 2007, aged 17.


Jake Friend: Joined club as a 17 year old from Queensland, playing SG Ball in 2007 before playing Australian Schoolboys later that year. In 2008 he played both SG Ball (premiership-winning side) and NYC before making his first grade debut in the same year aged 18.


Martin Kennedy: Joined club as a 17 year old from Queensland, playing SG Ball in 2007, before going on to captain the Australian Schoolboys later that year. Also played Under 20s that year before going on to make his NRL debut in 2009 aged 20.


Boyd Cordner: Joined club as a 16 year old in 2009. Played SG Ball for Newtown (who were representing the Roosters in 2009 at SG Ball level) that year and also played NYC in 2009. Injury robbed him of an SG Ball premiership and an Australian Schoolboys spot in 2010. He played for the Junior Kangaroos in 2011 but injury prevented him from playing again in 2012. He made his NRL debut in 2011 aged 18.


Tautau Moga: Joined club as a 16 year old in 2010 from Queensland. Played SG Ball in 2010 (premiership-winning side) and 2011, Australian Schoolboys in 2010 as well as the Junior Kangaroos in 2011 and 2012. Made his NYC debut in 2011 but was barred by the NRL from making his first grade debut later that year due to a change in the minimum age requirement. Finally made his NRL debut in 2012 aged 18.



Category 2 (joined Roosters after turning 18 but prior to turning 20)


Frank Paul Nuuausala: Joined club as a 19 year old in 2006 from New Zealand. Played under 20s in 2006 before making his NRL debut in 2007 aged 20.


Mitchell Aubusson. Joined club as an 18 year old in 2006 after playing Australian Schoolboys in 2005. Played under 20s in 2006 before making his NRL debut in 2007 aged 19.


Roger Tuivasa-Sheck: Joined club as an 18 year old in 2012 after playing New Zealand Schoolboys (Rugby Union). In 2012 he played NYC before making his NRL debut in the same year, aged 19, and played Junior Kiwis in the same year.


Isaac Liu: Joined club as a 19 year old in 2011, playing one season in the NYC. Made his NRL debut in 2013, aged 21.



Category 3 (Joined Roosters after turning 20 but made NRL/Super League debut at our club)


Aiden Guerra: Joined Roosters in 2010 aged 22, making his NRL debut in the same year. A Queenslander, he was formerly a second-tier player with Melbourne but through injury and other factors failed to play first grade before joining the Roosters.


Tinirau Arona: Joined Newtown (Roosters feeder club) in 2010, aged 20, after graduating from Penrith NYC team and then joined the Roosters in 2011. The Cook Islands international made his first grade debut early in 2011 aged 21.


Lama Tasi: Joined Roosters in 2011, aged 20, after graduating from Manly/Warringah NYC team. A Queenslander, but also a Junior Kiwi in 2010, he made his NRL debut in 2011 aged 20.


Daniel Tupou: Joined Roosters in 2012, aged 20, after graduating from Parramatta NYC team. Of Tongan heritage, he made his debut late in the 2012 season aged 21 and was a member of Newtowns 2012 premiership winning team.



Category 4 (joined Roosters after playing fewer than 25 NRL/Super league games elsewhere)


Jared Waerea-Hargreaves; Joined Roosters in 2010 aged 21. Graduated from Manly/Warringah 2009 NYC team but did play six first grade games and make his test debut for New Zealand in 2009 before joining Roosters.


Jack Bosden: Joined Roosters in 2012 from St George/Illawarra, aged 23, and made his Roosters debut in the same year at the same age. He had played four first grade games for St George/Illawarra in 2011.


Nafe Seluini: Joined Roosters midway through 2012 at the age of 22, making his Roosters debut soon after. The Warriors NYC 2010 player of the year, this New Zealander played 19 first grade games for Penrith in 2011 and 2012 before joining the Roosters.


Michael Oldfield: Joined Roosters in 2013 aged 22 from Manly/Warringah where he played 24 first grade games. Yet to make his Roosters debut.



Category 5 (player joining the Roosters as an established first grader)


Luke ODonnell: Joined Roosters in 2013 after a long career. From 1999-2012 he played at Balmain (three games), Wests Tigers (48 games), North Queensland (117 games) and Huddersfield (24 games). 11 test matches for Australia and five State Of Origin matches for NSW.


Sam Moa: Joined Roosters in 2013 after 76 games at Hull (2009-2012) and one NRL game for Cronulla/Sutherland in 2008. Played seven tests for Tonga.


Daniel Mortimer: Joined Roosters in 2012 after playing 48 games for Parramatta (2009-2011).



Category 6 (elite player joining the Roosters as a top five player at the club)


Sonny Bill Williams: One of the games real superstars, he joined the Roosters in 2013 as the New Zealand heavyweight boxing champion and a dual rugby league/rugby union international. Played 73 NRL games for the Bulldogs (2004-2008), including a premiership (2004) and seven test matches for New Zealand, before spending five years in rugby union, winning a World Cup and Super Rugby title and playing 19 test matches for the All Blacks.


Michael Jennings; Joined the Roosters in 2013 after 122 NRL games with Penrith. A current State Of Origin player, he has played seven matches at that level and one test for Australia. Scored 71 tries in 122 matches for Penrith and is regarded by many as one of the best centres in the game.


James Maloney: Joined Roosters in 2013 after a career that took him from Parramatta to Melbourne (four NRL games) and then to the New Zealand Warriors (75 games) where he was a key member of their 2011 grand final side. Maloney played junior reps for the Central Coast but is originally from Orange.



Other clubs


Every other club contains at least one player in their fulltime squad who was at the Roosters, either in junior reps, under 20s or senior squad, before playing their first NRL match. Those 27 players, across 15 clubs are Cheyse Blair (Parramatta), Sam Perrett (Canterbury/Bankstown), Jamie Soward (St George/Illawarra), Ben Hannant, David Hala (Brisbane), Dominic Peyroux (New Zealand), James Tamou, Antonio Winterstein, Rory Kostjasyn, Kane Linnett, Curtis Rona (North Queensland), Brad Takarangi, Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast), David Shillington, Sandor Earl (Canberra), Blake Ayshford, Jacob Miller (Wests Tigers), Anthony Cherrington, Mose Maose, Nigel Plum, Lewis Brown (Penrith), Tom Symonds, Justin Horo, George Rose (Manly/Warringah), Joseph Leilua (Newcastle), Michael Crocker (South Sydney), Anthony Tupou (Cronulla/Sutherland) and Sisi Waqa (Melbourne)



Comparisons


It also ironic that Canterbury/Bankstown, who have supporters who attend games against the Roosters with signs such as Bred Not Bought, had just five Category 1-3 players (Ben Barba from Mackay, Sam Kasiano from Auckland, Josh Jackson from Gulgong via Newcastle, Dale Finucane from Bega and local junior Josh Reynolds) when they last appeared in a grand final in 2012, but the Roosters in their last grand final appearance in 2010 had over double that number (11) of Category 1-3 players in their line-up.


Penrith, the club with the largest junior league in NSW, have just eight Category 1-3 players (Blake Austin, Lachlan Coote, Tim Grant, Geoff Daniela (all Penrith juniors), Matt Robinson, Ryan Simpkins, Sam McKendry, Josh Mansour) in their top 25, compared to the 15 we have at the Roosters.


Of the 45 players used by the Roosters in our five grand finals between 2000 and 2010, 27 of them Adrian Lam, Dallas Hood, Ryan Cross, Shane Rigon, Simon Bonetti, Scott Logan, Bryan Fletcher, Peter Cusack, Shannon Hegarty, David Solomona, Andrew Lomu, Anthony Minichiello, Chris Flannery, Michael Crocker, Todd Byrne, Anthony Topou, Luke Ricketson, Joseph Leilua, Kane Linnett, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Lopini Paea, Sam Perrett, Mitchell Pearce, Martin Kennedy, Jake Friend, Mitchell Aubusson and Frank Paul Nuuausala made their NRL/Super League debuts from the Roosters.


These figures compare more than favourably with most of the other NRL clubs, and the Rooster development programs and astute talent spotting will continue to be the envy of many of our rivals. Lets not allow detractors to muddy the waters with spurious arguments that youd be embarrassed to hear from a ten year old. You are entitled to be as a proud as any rugby league supporter in the players developed by the Sydney Roosters, both numerically and in the quality of football played by many of these men who have become NRL stars.


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.