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.


ROOSTERS TRACKING ALONG NICELY


With the Roosters bye almost coinciding with the halfway mark of our season, I thought it was an opportune time to take a look at how Trent Robinsons men are tracking compared with past Rooster teams, and against NRL grand final winners (1998-2012) generally.


(I urge you to read on. You will be pleased.)


Attack


This season the Roosters have scored 43 tries at an average of 3.91 per game, which compares very favourably with the best Roosters sides of the past. After we defeated Canterbury in Round 6 that average broke the magical 4.00 mark and peaked at 4.50 after our defeat of Penrith in Round 8. As we can see from the table below, only 15 Rooster sides in the past 105 years have been able to average more than four tries a game over a full season of home and away matches but that lofty goal is certainly not beyond this talented team. The great 1935 team, which lost just one game, heads this table by some margin.


That 1935 tally of 131 tries reached 139 when the two finals matches are added in, and Roosters hall of fame inductee Dave Brown scored 38 of them, which is still the record for most tries in a season by any player at any club. That period of Rooster dominance (1934-37) stands out in this list given that tries were not scored at anywhere near todays rate, or at anytime before the introduction of the five-yard rule in 1966. In those four seasons the Roosters lost just five matches (four in 1934), won titles in 1935, 1936 and 1937, and were runner-ups in 1934, going down 15-12 to Wests. Although this great era for the Roosters is often characterised by the point-scoring feats of Dave Brown, the side was chock full of stars, with Jack Beaton, Viv Thicknesse, Andy Norval, Joe Pearce and Ray Stehr amongst the very best Roosters of all time; they, along with Brown, were all named as members of the Roosters Team of the Century.


With league immortal and Roosters Hall of Fame inductee Arthur Beetson playing in both the 1972 and 1974 grand final teams, it is little surprise to see them on the list. Of some surprise is that seven of the remaining eight sides are all from the past 15 years when the Roosters have played great attacking football, but sadly delivered just one premiership, despite many finals (and five grand final) appearances. For seven seasons in succession (1998-2004), the Roosters averaged more than four tries a game, a period in which another Roosters Hall of Fame inductee, Brad Fittler, was by far the most influential player at the club. His contribution to the decade of excellence should never be underestimated.


As you can see from the table below, Roosters sides that score more than four tries a game go on to play in the big end-of-season games, but this alone is not enough to deliver a title, as only five of these sides have gone on to be premiers.


Click here to see Rooster Teams Scoring More Than Four Tries Per Match (Excluding Finals)



Defence


Like a coin, there are two sides to a football team attack and defence. So while scoring more than four tries a game will just about guarantee you finals footy, sides with a great defence are regular challenging for premiership glory.


This season the Roosters have had a remarkable turnaround in the number of tries conceded. From 2009 to 2012 the Roosters conceded an average of 4.23 tries a game during the home and away season, but through 11 matches this year the Roosters have conceded just 21 tries, at an average of 1.91 a game. This is the best defensive record of any Roosters side since 1977. The list below details the 15 Roosters sides in the past 105 years that have been able to concede, on average, fewer than two tries a game over a full season of home and away premiership matches. (And, yes, it is exactly the same number of Rooster sides that have scored an average of more than four tries per game.)


Naturally the bulk of these teams played in the era before the introduction of the five-yard rule. In fact only four sides (1974, 1975, 1977 and 1981) are from the post-war period. However, one cannot write a column such as this without paying tribute to the 1912 premiership-winning Tricolours (as they were known then). Having won the 1911 title and before going on to win the 1913 title (and becoming the first team in history to win three successive titles), the 1912 team conceded just 10 tries in 14 matches. They won 13 of 14 matches and in the game they lost (4-2 to Newtown) the opposition was kept tryless. They never conceded more than two tries in a game and in six of their 14 matches their opposition failed to score a try. They scored 42 tries in this season, giving them a ratio of 4.2-1 of tries scored to conceded. This team still ranks among the greatest teams in our history, and featured Hall of Famer and rugby league pioneer Dally Messenger, and Roosters Team of the Century hooker Sandy Pearce.


Seven Roosters teams that conceded fewer than two tries a game (home and away matches) went on to win the premiership, while three others finished second.


However, if you look at Roosters teams that had a great attack (scoring more than four tries a game) and a great defence (conceding fewer than two tries a game), you then have a recipe for success. It has occurred just twice but both teams went on to win the premiership: the 1935 side featuring six members of the Team of the Century, which lost just once that season, and the 1974 side featuring five members (Beetson, Russell Fairfax, Bill Mullins, Ron Coote and Barry Reilly) and the coach (Jack Gibson), which lost just four times (but only three times in home and away matches).


After achieving the double in 1935, Roosters supporters had to wait 39 years to witness their team pull it off again, and as we progress through 2013 and watch our side score at their current rate and defend like few modern Roosters teams before them, we can only speculate whether 39 years after we last completed the double in 1974, we may be on the verge of matching the deeds of the sides of 1935 and 1974.


Click here to see Rooster Teams Conceding Less Than Two Tries Per Match (Excluding Finals)



NRL grand final winners


It is also interesting to look through home-and-away records of the NRL grand final winners since 1998. Only one team (Melbourne in 2007) has managed to concede fewer than two tries per game, but 12 of the 15 winners have been able to score more than four a match. Teams with a try differential of less than 1.50 (Panthers in 2003, the Tigers in 2005, Brisbane in 2006 and Manly in 2011) did not commence the finals series as favourites, and to this day there are many still surprised they were even premiers. But the finals series is another competition, and great form in the home-and-away season will take you only so far.


Click here to see NRL grand final winners try tallies (1998 to 2012) (excluding finals)





So I, for one, will be keeping a close eye on the Roosters try differential for the remaining 13 home-and-away matches, and if I keep seeing that differential at two or above, I will be one happy Rooster. If we finish the home-and-away season scoring more than four tries a game and conceding fewer than two per game, we will have plenty in common with the great sides of 1935 and 1974, and maybe have a real shot at our 13th Premiership. 8 wins from our last 13 should secure a top four position but 10 wins should secure that crucial top two position. Averaging more than four tries a game and conceding fewer than two would certainly deliver that top two berth.


The club is well placed for the future too. Our NYC team is in an identical position on their competition table to our NRL side, running third with 8 wins from 11 and as a result of this great start to the season the Roosters now lead the NRL Club Championship by three points.


Home crowds


The Roosters are currently enjoying their greatest season ever for average home crowds. After 7 of our 12 home games we are averaging 22,951 a game. To break our record 2004 mark, we will only need to average 10,092 for our final five home games of the season against the Warriors (round 14), Manly (round 16), the Sharks (round 19), the Raiders (round 22) and the Titans (round 25).


Click here to see Rooster Teams Averaging More Than 13,500 Per Home Match (Excluding Finals)



However, given what great football we have played at Allianz Stadium this season in winning 5 of our 7 games there and scoring at an average of 26.86 points per game while conceding just 10 points, surely our loyal fans will push us towards, and hopefully beyond, the elusive 18,000 mark for the first time in our history. To do so we will need to average 11,069 for these last five home games.


Come on, be part of what could well be a record-breaking year with a record-breaking team, and help make 2013 a season to remember.


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.