NRLW Roosters season preview 2019

Sydney Roosters came within reach of taking out the inaugural Holden Women's Premiership but last year's pre-season favourites found the expectation and pressure a bit too hard to handle. 

A final-round win over the Dragons in convincing fashion leapfrogged the side into second spot and a grand final berth at ANZ Stadium. 

They were no match for a dominant Brisbane Broncos line-up but have returned 12 months later with the experience under their belt and with it all to play for. 

The favouritism tag has been shed and, if anything, the new-look squad has been flying under the radar before their second campaign. However, they've maintained their resources and firepower to ensure they're a big chance to go one step better in 2019. 

The Outlook

What's new

An experienced NRL coach and new-look spine will take centre stage. The Tricolours were stacked with talent last season but failed to click early on, and in a short competition there is no time for distraction. 

In comparison with other squads their core nucleus is relatively stable which should be a bonus leading into the second campaign. 

They'll be boosted by the return of Corban McGregor from injury with the NSW representative set to make the fullback spot her own after shoulder surgery ruled her out of last year's competition. 

The Draw

The Roosters will meet the Warriors at Melbourne's AAMI Park to open the competition in a clash to be played prior to the men's qualifying final between the Storm and Raiders. 

They'll then take on premiers Brisbane in a grand final rematch at a venue yet to be confirmed, before their derby against St George Illawarra at Leichhardt Oval on September 29. 

In the only disappointment, the match-up rules out a possible double header occasion for the Tricolours in week three even if Trent Robinson's men host a grand final qualifier at the SCG.

The stat that gives you hope

There is plenty of improvement left in the Roosters after last year's inaugural season but they'll also take some promising statistics from it.

The Tricolours led the competition in key areas – lines engaged, support play, post-contact and dummy-half runs – but they struggled when it came to execution.

They had no trouble booting themselves out of trouble either with a competition-high 1097 kick metres, and that figure is only expected to climb with the addition of Kirra Dibb, who is one of the game's best long-range kickers. 

The basics are there and if they can find some more cohesion in attack they'll prove hard to stop offensively. 

NSW representative Kirra Dibb.
NSW representative Kirra Dibb. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

The coach

A familiar name is back in the elite circle with Rick Stone taking on the coaching gig after returning to Australia from the English Super League last season.

Stone was a well-known figure in the men's game but is relatively new to the women's space. He helped guide CRL Newcastle to their maiden NSW premiership earlier in the month and will bring six players with him from that side to the Roosters.

"Rick was great for us at Newcastle and he brings experience that a lot of the younger girls have never really been able to train under before," Roosters forward Bec Young said. 

"He enjoys the fact that we ask a lot of questions if we're not sure on something and I think the women's game we're learning really fast and it's great that someone of his calibre has come on board."

Stone will be assisted by former NSW representative Kylie Hilder, who retired before the new season.

Former Knights coach Rick Stone.
Former Knights coach Rick Stone. ©NRL Photos

Player movement/Contract matters

A host of underrated talent arrives at Bondi Junction to replace those who have departed - a list that includes NSW halfback Maddie Studdon (Dragons) and Jillaroos back-rower Tazmin Gray (Broncos) to rival clubs.

The Tricolours haven't mucked around in finding replacements though with Jillaroos representative Hannah Southwell moving from the Dragons, while former Broncos forward Tallisha Harden and rising playmaker Kirra Dibb are among the other high-profile names to sign on.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of their recruitment is the lesser-known players from outside backs Jasmin Allende, Bobbi Law and Kiana Takairangi to experienced forward Bec Young, who is part of the squad after missing selection last year. 

The game breaker

There is no questioning the impact Isabelle Kelly has on any team. At times during last year's Roosters campaign it felt like a case of throwing the ball to the 2018 Golden Boot winner and hoping for the best.

The Jillaroos representative didn't seem to struggle with the expectation though to lead the competition in runs (46), running metres (422) and 124.9 post-contact metres in three regular season games.

Her competition-high error total of six was perhaps the only downfall, again highlighting the workload she took on during the inaugural season.

The player you should follow on social media

Zahara Temara: A fresh Instagram account for the Jillaroos representative leading into the new season and her first image was an epic appetiser in itself. 

The Roosters playmaker used to be quietly spoken but has noticeably come out of her shell in recent years after finding form on the paddock.

Perhaps this plug is the motivation she needs to continue using the social media platform throughout the NRLW season. 

 
 
 
 
 
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This is gangster! Big thanks to @steggles and the @sydneyroosters for this initiative. Beyond blessed 🙏 🐓 #StegglerFor #TrueLegends #OurWay #EastsToWin #Roosters4Life

A post shared by zaharatemara (@zahara.temara) on

The quote

"I think the culture and environment at the Roosters has been amazing, ever since I arrived from Brisbane for pre-season training it's been seamless and we've felt welcomed as a squad from the moment we assembled. It's important we get off to a good start and capitalise on how well our preparation has been going." - Roosters recruit Tallisha Harden. 

Squad

Karina Brown, Quincy Dodd, Vanessa Foliaki, Isabelle Kelly, Nita Maynard, Corban McGregor, Ruan Sims, Shontelle Stowers, Zahara Temara, Simaima Taufa, Hannah Southwell, Tallisha Harden, Melanie Howard, Kirra Dibb, Shanice Parker, Simone Smith, Jasmin Allende, Bobbi Law, Amelia Mafi, Aliti Namoce, Kiana Takairangi, Rebecca Young.

Tarsha Gale's prediction

Finish: Second

Rick Stone will be looking to ensure this team of champions do not repeat their shaky start to last year’s competition. Captain Simaima Taufa is one of 10 players that have re-signed with the Roosters this year alongside Isabelle Kelly, Vanessa Foliaki, and Corban McGregor, who are all superstars of the game. Add to this the leadership experience of Ruan Sims and Karina Brown, it makes it hard to think they will not be there on grand final day for a consecutive season.