Year of the Rooster?
The end of the 2017 season marked the completion of 20 years of the NRL. Since the end of the Super League “war” a few teams have claims at being the most successful club over that period, with varying levels of legitimacy.
It is hard to argue against the top 3 clubs being the Broncos, Roosters and Storm* but all three can point to different stats to make their claim for number 1.
The Broncos could tell you that they have made the finals 18 of the 20 seasons, more than any other team and that they have won 3 titles in that time – equal to the number of titles won by Melbourne.
The Storm could tell you that they have made the top 4 in 12 of the 20 seasons, more than any other team and that while they had some of their titles stripped they still enjoyed the success of 5 Grand Final wins and their “average position” on the ladder over that time is better than any other club. (Noting that this is partly due to premiership points not being retroactively deducted for the salary cap scandal)
The Roosters could point to their 4 Minor Premierships over that period as being the most of any club, and that when you take away the 4 seasons Melbourne were found guilty of cheating the salary cap, the Roosters have played in the most Grand Finals over that time.
Of those arguments, to me, the Roosters have the weakest and the main reason is their inability to convert the seasons that they are genuine title contenders into Premierships – which is the main thing that it seems that they are trying to address this season with the addition of Cooper Cronk.
For what it’s worth, I think the Storm are number 1, the Broncos number 2 and the Roosters 3, but it is a big season for all three of these clubs for different reasons.
The Broncos are in danger of losing their number 2 spot under the What Have You Done For Me Lately clause. They haven’t won a Minor Premiership since 2000 and they haven’t won a Premiership since 2006. Memories fade, and if they don’t start getting the runs on the board and the Roosters take the next step, it will be hard to maintain their grip on second place.
The Storm have had the guidance of 2 of the most proven winners in the history of the sport in Cam Smith and Cooper Cronk for a long time, and losing a player of that much influence puts pressure on the infamous Craig Bellamy system that can seemingly turn anyone with the right attitude into a star. I have no doubt that they will win a lot of games again this season, but will they still be able to win the crunch games that matter?
For the Roosters it goes a bit deeper. I have asked questions for a while of the Roosters as a club having trouble with the killer instinct that you see in the leaders within the QLD Origin team in the NRL, Sydney FC in the A League through the last 2 seasons and with the Patriots in the NFL (last Superbowl loss aside)
Of the top 3 listed above, the Roosters have the worst Grand Final conversion rate, winning only 2 of 6 compared to Brisbane and Melbourne’s 3 of 4. If you include the “asterisk” years for Melbourne they won 5 of 8 Grand Finals.
It doesn’t read great, and some of it can be put down to the fact that between 2000 and 2004 the Roosters played in 4 of the 5 Grand Finals and only won 1 of them, with the only other Grand Final loss coming in 2010 when they made a run from 6th to make the big show and were never really expected to win.
Looking at the next level down, their Minor Premiership conversion rate is also the lowest here. The Broncos converted both of their Minor Premierships into titles in the NRL era and the Storm only converted 1 of their 3 legitimate Minor Premierships into a title and 2 of their 6 if you include the asterisk years. The Roosters have only converted 1 of their 4 Minor Premierships into a title.
That 33% result for the Storm surprised me (though still better than the 25% mark of the Roosters) but of their 6 (or 3) Minor Premiership years, they only missed the Grand Final 1 of those years whereas the Rooster only got to the big show from 2 of their 4 Minor Premierships.
So if the lost Grand Finals were not enough, adding in the years that they didn’t even make it there when they were favourites speaks even further to the biggest thing that the Roosters are lacking.
In the last 4 years the Roosters have finished in the top 2 three times and don’t have a Grand Final appearance to show for it.
You won’t find many arguments against the statement that Mitchell Pearce may be a fine NRL player, but he is certainly not a “winner”. Anyone that has watched any of his State of Origin career (from either side of the border) can tell you that for everything that Pearce offers a team, he is not the player you bring in to put a team over the top.
Enter Cooper Cronk.
A 5 time Dally M Halfback of the Year, 2 time Dally M Player of the Year, Clive Churchill Medal winner and Golden Boot winner, Cronk has played in 7 State of Origin winning campaigns, played in 4 winning Grand Finals and won every trophy that can be won for Australia. He is nothing if not a winner, but here he is being charged not with continuing a winning culture, but creating one. He has also had one of the all-time greats in Cam Smith at his side in every one of those teams, and there are people that question if Cronk can do it without his partner in crime
The Roosters have gone all in on Cronk to help them get over the hump and dumped a club stalwart in the process. If they can do it, the moves will all be worth it - but if they can’t, where does that leave the reputation of the club?
Either way I can’t wait to find out!
*The Eagles and Bulldogs are the next tier down, then the Cowboys and Dragons, then everyone else. Do not @ me.