NRL: good business primes Roosters for Storm chasing

first_imgThough the Roosters look a little light on depth they have done some particularly good business as they always seem to do (though for all that they’ve won just two titles since 1975). Cronk and Tedesco are key positional upgrades on Mitchell Pearce and veteran Michael Gordon respectively. As the 2017 preliminary finalists have also retained Jake Friend and Luke Keary – ensuring they will field the kind of model spine you could use in chiropractic schools – they’ve set themselves up well to challenge for top honours. But so much will hinge on Cronk and it will be fascinating to see how he operates without his long-time wingmen Cameron Smith and Billy Slater with whom he’d developed something akin to a telepathic understanding. At 34 the old dog will have to learn a few new tricks but only a fool would doubt his ability to do just that.If Cronk and Tedesco boost the Roosters’ premiership credentials what does his absence mean for the premiers? As promising as his replacement Brodie Croft is the loss of Cronk’s composure and link play will surely cost the Storm points along the way. But of the now defunct Big Three it’s Smith whose influence is the greatest at the Storm. As has been pointed out, the Storm have won 65% of the 54 games they’ve played without Cronk (but with Smith and Slater). This is compared to a 73% win rate from from 232 games when all three have played, 55% from the 11 games Cronk and Slater have played without Smith, and the 40% from 15 games Cronk has played without Smith and Slater. The latter two are admittedly very small sample sizes (because Smith, seemingly, is made from titanium) but they could suggest the Storm will be weakened – but not critically so – by Cronk’s absence as long as Smith stays healthy. They remain the team to beat.As well as the race for the premiership the 2018 season will offer up its usual amounts of drama, intrigue and controversy – which, in the case of the latter, has already started what with Matthew Lodge’s return to the NRL threatening to overshadow the opening game and the possible return to the competition of Todd Carney. Share on Messenger Read more features Topics NRL NRL opens up can of worms with play-the-ball crackdown Australia sport Nick Tedeschi As always, there will be politicking in the background and new NRL commission chairman Peter Beattie – who has replaced John Grant – has the unenviable task of uniting the game’s clubs when it comes to constitutional reform. But he’s already thinking big. “The vision of the game is really simple; we have to expand,” he said at his first ARLC AGM two weeks ago.Another point of considerable interest will be how the NRL and the clubs respond to the New Zealand v England Test match in Denver in June (during a State of Origin bye weekend). It shapes as a test of the NRL clubs’ willingness to support the international game, given they run the risk that released players will be injured. It will surely help matters if the NRL implements, as it has suggested it might, salary cap relief for clubs whose players are injured on international duty.The coming season will also see the launch of a women’s competition, abbreviated though it will be in its first iteration, as well as a ninth Immortal named since Andrew Johns was last added to the list in 2012. As always, however, it will be the drama on the field that captivates. And at the centre of that will be the players, including all those romancing a new set of fans, or twisting the dagger in the hearts of those they left behind. But don’t let your broken hearts consume you, folks, much less burn your replica jumpers. Put them in storage instead, for look at what’s happened at the Tigers. Benji’s back. The case of Matthew Lodge: when a line in the sand must be drawn Share on Pinterest … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Support The Guardian At some point in life you’d hope to attain the kind of clear-eyed perspective that has you agreeing with Tennyson, that it is indeed better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. But as so many young NRL fans will discover this coming season you don’t reach this point without first enduring a lot of long, lonely nights tearfully singing Simply the Best while hate-watching YouTube highlights packages of your former love carving them up.Player movements are commonplace in professional sport but the shuffling of the decks that has taken place in the NRL over the off-season has been remarkable. It’s as if the clubs had a key party over summer. While it’s torn young hearts asunder to see their once favourite players pull on the colours of another club (a situation referenced by the NRL’s latest ad campaign) the club-swapping has added considerable intrigue to the 2018 season which commences at Kogarah Jubilee Oval on Thursday night. Share via Email Rugby league Read more This is particularly the case because of the quality of the players involved. Cooper Cronk (Storm to Roosters), James Tedesco (Tigers to Roosters), James Maloney (Sharks to Panthers), Matt Moylan (Panthers to Sharks), Josh Dugan (Dragons to Sharks), James Graham (Bulldogs to Dragons), Ben Hunt (Broncos to Dragons), Jack Bird (Sharks to Broncos), Jarryd Hayne (Titans to Eels), Dane Gagai (Knights to Souths), Mitchell Pearce (Roosters to Knights), Kalyn Ponga (Cowboys to Knights), Aidan Guerra (Roosters to Knights), Tohu Harris (Storm to Warriors), Kieran Foran (Warriors to Bulldogs), Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs to Tigers), and many others, all made off-season moves.Safe to say, then, that the premiership will be decided in large part both by how the presence of these players improves their new teams and how their absence affects their old ones.Like entering a wolf’s lair wearing trousers made from bacon, predicting the NRL top eight is not something you do with any confidence. This is mainly because of the fine margins that exist not only between the clubs but also between winning and losing in any given game. Eight of Canberra’s losses in 2017, for instance, were by six points or less, three of them in golden point extra-time. The club for whom so many predicted good things last season finished two wins outside the eight.As unpredictable as the NRL can be the reigning premiers Melbourne, the Sydney Roosters and last year’s beaten grand finalists, North Queensland (who are boosted by the return from injury of Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, both of whom missed the Cowboys’ finals heroics in 2017), would have to get a lot wrong to not feature in September football. Outside of that trio Parramatta, Penrith, Brisbane and Cronulla look particularly capable while St George Illawarra might surprise with James Graham and Ben Hunt on board. 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