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So good for so long: How Roosters can bounce back in 2023

In many ways, the final 80 minutes of the Roosters’ 2022 season reflected the 25 rounds that had preceded it – an emotional rollercoaster of injuries before and during the match, brilliant moments mixed with baffling ones and frustration at what might have been but ultimately wasn’t to be.

Such are the expectations both internally and externally after finals appearances in nine of the last 10 years and three premierships to boot, that an honourable exit in week one at the hands of your arch-enemy will burn the Roosters players all summer.

And that’s what has made them so good for so long. They refuse to settle for second-best and they refuse to make excuses, even though they’ve had plenty in the past two seasons.

Since the heady days of 2018-19 when Cooper Cronk, Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend led them to back-to-back titles, the Bondi boys have endured a run of bad luck that would have seen lesser sides fall off a cliff completely.

Cronk at least had the privilege of choosing his own path, retiring at the end of 2019 after one of the most decorated careers of the modern era. He had come to the Roosters to do a job and when it was complete, he could sail off into the sunset a happy man.

Not so for inspirational leaders Cordner and Friend, both of whom battled multiple concussions and chose to retire ahead of their time for the good of their health.

Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner celebrate after the Roosters' 2019 Grand Final win.
Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner celebrate after the Roosters' 2019 Grand Final win. ©NRL Photos

Both club legends said goodbye in 2021, a season in which the Roosters also lost Lindsay Collins and Brett Morris to season-ending knee injuries on the same night in Newcastle and had just two players, Daniel Tupou and Isaac Liu, appear in every game.

Through all the adversity the Roosters still managed to finish fifth and won their first final before bowing out at the hands of Manly.

So to 2022, and after unexpected losses to the Knights, Dragons and Roosters within the first eight rounds, the Roosters faced a stretch of matches between Round 10 and 16 where they met teams who would go on to finish in the eight – beating the Eels and Sharks but losing to the Panthers twice, the Storm, the Raiders and Parramatta to sit 10th with a 7-9 record with eight games to play.

Highlighting yet again the resilience and mental fortitude that has made them so successful, the Roosters won those last eight matches to head into the finals in sixth spot with a 15-9 record and bucketload of momentum after beating the Rabbitohs in Round 25 at the grand opening of their new home ground.

The elation of that victory was tempered by a calf injury to star centre Joey Manu, who was sorely missed in Sunday’s return bout with the Rabbitohs, while first-choice prop Lindsay Collins looked on from the stands as he serves a four-game ban for a hip drop tackle on the Storm’s Tom Eisenhuth.

Crichton gets another versus his old team

Winger Daniel Tupou took an injury into the game and failed to make it to half-time, James Tedesco played just 18 minutes before a head knock ruled him out, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves failed a HIA and Victor Radley spent 20 minutes of his afternoon in the sin bin.

“It was chaotic and it got to the point where it was so stop-start, as a spectacle it would have been interesting and different,” Robinson reflected post-match.

“The team has to be able to adapt to losing James [Tedesco].

If we’re going to rely on one guy then we’re not going to be the team that we want to be.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson

"That was a bit of the case tonight.”

In the final analysis, only Sam Walker, Angus Crichton, Nat Butcher and Drew Hutchison would play all 25 games, meaning the Roosters were undermanned more often that not as they had to fight like hell to even reach September, let alone make an impact once they got there.

With Brandon Smith on his way in 2023 and the nucleus of their squad intact, there’s good reason for optimism at Roosters HQ, although a slice of fortune on the injury front wouldn’t go astray.

Roosters fans celebrate a try at the new-look Allianz Stadium.
Roosters fans celebrate a try at the new-look Allianz Stadium. ©NRL Photos
Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.