QUEANBEYAN, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: Sam Walker of the Roosters celebrates a try with team mates during the NRL trial Match between the Sydney Roosters and the Canberra Raiders at Seiffert Oval on February 27, 2021 in Queanbeyan, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

The Sydney Roosters had no right to finish as high as they did on the ladder in 2021 given their injury crisis, but they had a superb season. Here is their season review.

Pre-season predicted finish: 5th
Actual finish: 5th
Record: 16 wins (+141)

2021 Season snapshot

You simply can't talk about the Roosters 2021 season without addressing the massive injury toll the club suffered. We'll cover it in depth a little later.

Every time a superstar went down though, a youngster stepped up to fill the void. It's the Roosters way.

For most of the season, the Roosters looked like a top four side. This despite the ridiculous injury toll. They would ultimately underdeliver in the finals but by then they were done.

Given the amount of success the club has had over recent seasons the fact that they may be most proud of their side in 2021 says everything.

Star Player: James Tedesco

While most of the fullback attention in 2021 centred around Ryan Papenhuyzen and then Tom Trbojevic, James Tedesco is not to be forgotten.

While the foundations fell down around him, Tedesco put the entire club and their hopes on his own back. He is the reason the Roosters made the finals.

Across his 22 games, which included two finals appearances, he scored five tries, set up 22 tries, made 17 line breaks, broke 145 tackles and ran for over 180 metres per game.

Tedesco was absolutely incredible in 2021. In any other year, he would have routed in the fullback of the year award.

JAMES TEDESCO
Fullback
Roosters
2021 SEASON AVG
0.4
Tries
1
Try Assists
7
Tackle Breaks

Breakout star: Sam Walker

For a season or so now we'd heard the hype. Ben Walker's kid could play footy. No one, Trent Robinson aside perhaps, could have seen Sam Walker's 2021 season coming.

Debuting in Round 4 he was thrown into the deep end. Luke Keary's season-ending injury meant that Walker would become the main man right away.

He responded with eight tries, 19 try assists, nine forced dropouts, 22 line break assists, 123 kicking metres per game and a Dally M rookie of the year award.

He was thrown on in his first finals appearance and given nine minutes to win the game. He not only slotted a field goal but made a season-saving last-ditch tackle. Incredible!

Rugby League Outlaws present their Season Finale and talk all the big issues

Positives

Success despite every roadblock: I'm still not entirely sure how this side managed to overcome everything to finish fifth.

Good coaching, brilliant leadership and some freakish youngers seems the obvious answer, but even so... There isn't a side in the game who could match this effort.

Trent Robinson is arguably the best coach in the game. If not, he's certainly in the top three. He oversaw something special.

SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES - MARCH 05: Roosters coach Trent Robinson watches on during a Sydney Roosters NRL training session at Kippax Lake on March 5, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

They limped to the end of the season but by all rights, they should have been crawling by mid-season.

Youngsters step up: Sam Walker is the most exciting young prospect in the game and was the very worthy rookie of the year winner.

Joseph Suaalii put aside some massive pressure to make five appearances. He looks every bit the player who the Roosters hoped he would be after poaching him from Souths.

Adam Keighran stepped into a centre position and was extraordinary considering. Lachlan Lam was asked to play across multiple positions and did so.

The Roosters 2022 side is looking multiple times more exciting than it has any right to be considering the amount of players unavailable next season.

Negatives

Injuries... So many injuries: Oh my! I don't remember ever seeing an injury crisis like this before. Sure, every team suffers injuries but I'm convinced Trent Robison broke a series of mirrors in the pre-season.

Boyd Cordner was unable to make it onto the field this season. He was forced into an early retirement due to repeated head knocks.

Jake Friend and Brett Morris were also forced to retire earlier than they had hoped due to injury.

Luke Keary tore his ACL in the third round of the season leaving young halves to guide the side.

Throw in the Joseph Manu broken jaw prior to the Finals and the curse is very real.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 27: Referee Ashley Klein speaks with Joseph Manu of the Roosters after receiving a high tackle from Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs during the round 24 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on August 27, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Not competitive against the elite sides: Besides their monster 46-4 win over a Turbo-less Sea Eagles in Round 1, the Roosters were largely uncompetitive against the elite sides.

They lost to bitter rivals the Bunnies twice, the Storm beat them by a combined 64-4 across two games, while they also lost to the Panthers twice.

Losing to the Panthers, Storm and Bunnies is hardly an embarrassment considering the seasons they had but you can't win a title without beating a top-three side.

It's nit-picking considering but Roosters fans hate losing to the Bunnies let alone being beaten up on by the aforementioned Souths twice.

Season grade: A

Heading into the season the Roosters were expected to finish in, or about the top four. That was at full strength and with a stacked roster.

Taking into account the unprecedented list of injuries and forced retirements and finishing fifth and surviving a week in the Finals is almost unheard of.

Sam Walker emerged as a genuine superstar while Drew Hutchinson and Lachlan Lam both played well beyond their experience.
Injury after injury, but nothing could stop the Roosters.

Crichton and Tedesco stood up in the absence of Friend and Cordner and were arguably top three in their respective position.

With a fully fit Luke Keary back in the side next season, plus the returning Joseph Manu, there is no telling what they can achieve next year.

As for this season, they hugely overachieved given everything that they faced.