The future looks bright for the Sydney Roosters, with the Club’s resilient juniors set to return refreshed and ready to go for 2021 pre-season training in November.
Since the elite junior competitions were cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Roosters training programs for juniors were put on hold.
The Club kept in contact with the junior players during this time and were impressed with how they were all able to keep themselves in shape.
Sydney Roosters Head of Recruitment and Junior Player Development Daniel Anderson said it was in the Club and the players best interests to take a break.
“During COVID we went a lot different to other Clubs. A lot of Clubs continued their programming and we didn’t,” Anderson said.
“We envisaged when COVID hit in March and shut down the competitions, we thought ‘what’s the purpose of staying in the program when there is no light at end of the tunnel?’ We told our players that we will shut down our programs completely and told them to go and enjoy the year.
“We have players that have gone on to play with mates, play rugby league and rugby union, and they’ve played age group and A-Grade. We told them to do what they can, and enjoy what they can.
“We let the chain out but we will pull them in again in six weeks’ time and then start programming again, otherwise we would have been in front of them from March this year to March 2021 without playing and they would have got sick of us, sick of our voices, and it wouldn’t have benefitted the Roosters.
“The staff here, we have watched or met with every one of them. I have met every single one of our contracted players and went to Queensland before the borders shut, to make sure they were all OK and tracking along. Some have got taller and bigger, some got faster, but we didn’t train them.”
Someone is going to make their NRL debut next yearDaniel Anderson
Before COVID-19 ended the 2020 season for the junior competitions, the Jersey Flegg (Under 20s) side only played one game, while the SG Ball and Harold Matthews sides played just four games respectively.
Hit Play | Holden Cup Grand Final
It's been a challenging year for all players involved in the junior programs, but Anderson has been pleased with how the young men have made the most of it.
“We told them to maintain a physical, active lifestyle but at various stages you couldn’t train or go to the gym – so it was quite difficult for them,” Anderson said.
“As COVID restrictions have loosened, they are natural athletes and are finding training opportunities for themselves. We hope the benefit would be when we see them when they start our programs in November that they are excited to see us.
“A lot of them that are anxious as the ages have changed for next year. There are a number of players off contract who are not sure what they are doing.
“The difficulty when there are no games is that you can’t compare and see they’ve gone better and improvements we need to work on, so it has been a lost year for a number of players.
“They are anxious and frustrated they have missed a year of elite player development, but in the end, they had to be patient.
“A lot of them are adults – 18, 19, 20-year-olds – so they are young men and have to make their own decisions. Some won’t come back. Some would have got a job or moved and life moves on because they are not going to be a professional rugby league player.
“All the boys I’ve seen, met and spoken to have done very well, and now the unknown is they’ve been in fairly rigid programs for their development as rugby league players for a lot of them for two or three years – how are they going to come back to it?”
The players are raring to rip in, and with three juniors – Daniel Suluka-Fifita, Freddy Lussick and Christian Tuipulotu – making their NRL debut in 2020, a number will be returning to work towards the opportunity to earn their own NRL debut in 2021.
“Someone is going to make their NRL debut next year,” Anderson said.
“If we get two or three it will be great, but the staff and myself – our role is to push them into that program so that we generate three or four blokes who make their debut next year.
“We haven’t seen them, so I feel we can get stuck in straight away and get going, and get them into the rhythm of elite junior development as we haven’t coached any of them since March.”
In The Sheds | Freddy Lussick
When training resumes, the junior pathways programs will be required to comply with COVIDSafe guidelines.
While there is a lot of excitement among the junior playing group about a return to training, there are still some challenges for those who need to travel back to Sydney.
“We have got some unique circumstances. We had some boys who went back to New Zealand when COVID hit as their families wanted them home, so we sent them home,” Anderson said.
“We have a number of boys who are desperate to come back and get into training programs.
“One is Kani Manu – Joseph Manu’s little brother – and everything is here for him but he can’t come back as you have got to get a flight, get permission (to come into the country) and then quarantine in a hotel, so there are a lot of logistics now.
“The boys who are overseas and interstate are dead keen, but we’ve got to take into account if they can get home for Christmas, so we need to figure out if they are staying here for Christmas.
“Queenslanders who return have to go into quarantine when they go home, so do they come back home for Christmas?
“But the local boys are ready to go, and I know the boys we’ve bounced into are ready to tear back in.”
One of the best ways to support the Club’s juniors is to be a True Rooster and become a Club Member. Membership fees help fund the Club’s junior program so that the Club can continue to produce future first grade Roosters players.
Be A True Rooster
The Sydney Roosters Junior Programs have been critical for the Club’s success.
Nat Butcher, Victor Radley, Joey Manu, Sitili Tupouniua and Poasa Faamausili were part of the Roosters’ 2016 Holden Cup premiership win, and have developed to become key players in the NRL team.
Mitchell Aubusson, who recently broke the Club’s games record, and co-captain Jake Friend were part of the Roosters junior pathway, and were brought into the program by Roosters legend Arthur Beetson.
2021 Memberships are now live. You can commit to the Club as a Member online at membership.roosters.com.au or call the Roosters Membership Hotline on 1300 327 871.