SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 06: James Tedesco of the Roosters celebrates scoring a try during the 2019 NRL Grand Final match between the Canberra Raiders and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

In the words of Sam Walker, the Sydney Roosters might have left their run a little bit late, but they are certainly clicking at the right time of year.

And now, the Roosters have made the top eight.

It took plenty of squeaky moments through the final weeks of the season, but a five-match winning streak has seen the tri-colours dismantle, squeeze or blast their way past the Manly Sea Eagles, The Dolphins, Parramatta Eels, Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs, combined with a host of other results going their way, has seen the club sneak into the finals.

The run the Roosters have had is the true definition of squeaking into the finals too. It's an expression often thrown around at this time of year, but this time, there is nothing truer.

Despite that, if I'm a supporter of any other side in the finals, the last team I want to see running out on the other side of the park over the next four weeks is the Roosters.

They are in form, finals-ready, experienced and battle-hardened from the way they have made the finals.

The only team who enter the finals in better touch than the Roosters is the Newcastle Knights, while credit also has to go the way of the meticulous Penrith Panthers, who have won 14 of their last 16 matches since that horror Round 9 loss to the Wests Tigers in Bathurst.

And in what should be a warning sent to every club they will come up against during the month of September, it's James Tedesco who has been leading from the front.

Of course, the entire team has had a gigantic turnaround in recent weeks, and Trent Robinson went to great lengths to praise his entire spine after Friday's clash with the Rabbitohs.

From Brandon Smith's willingness to run the ball out of dummy half, to the combination Sam Walker and Luke Keary have formed.

But it's Tedesco who has rediscovered some of the flare and touch which turned him into the game's best fullback for a number of years in a row.

He has been well short of that level for much of 2023, but his last half a dozen games as the Roosters have made their charge at the finals have been nothing short of exceptional.

While the production in terms of run metres never went away during Tedesco's form slump - and the same was true whether he was playing for the Roosters or pulling on the sky blue jumper of New South Wales - it was his desire to play himself back into form which was his own worst enemy.

He regularly attempted to overplay his hand during the first three-quarters of the season, and rightly, at one point, the doubters were suggesting he should have been cut from the Blues State of Origin outfit on form alone.

But as the old saying goes, form is temporary, and class is permanent.

Tedesco is a living embodiment of that in recent weeks, and while it has required an improved effort around him, he brings the X-Factor and game-changing potential, which could fire the tri-colours to an unexpected deep run through September.

The simple fact of the matter is that Tedesco has made 11 try assists this season - six of those have come in his last six games, and the Roosters have then won five of them.

He has also crossed for three tries in his last two outings, and there has been a clear change in his demeanour on the field.

If anything, he is touching the ball more for less production, but that's exactly what the Roosters need.

His best games of the season have all come in the last month and a half, and yet, he has only touched the ball more than 30 times in a game once during that period.

Prior to Round 21, Tedesco had touched the ball more than 30 times in six of his previous nine games, which coresponded heavily with his, and his clubs, form going backwards.

In his latest six-game run, Tedesco has only run for more than 200 metres on one occasion, and while he is often seen as one of the competition's biggest metre eaters, the drop-off shows perfectly how he is playing a more reserved role but a more effective one.

Fewer touches, but more production on those touches means he isn't clogging up the play where he doesn't need to be, isn't hogging the ball, and is allowing other players around him to sing to their own tune.

And it has been clear to see.

Sam Walker has only just returned, but he had complete control of the team from the halfback role on Friday against the Rabbitohs, which then allowed Luke Keary's game to go to another level.

I'm not by any means suggesting the Roosters are premiership favourites.

The Panthers still claim that mantle with daylight back to the chasing pack, but even if I'm Penrith, I'd probably prefer to play just about anyone than a Roosters side who have figured themselves out, but more importantly, have been here and done this before.

And that is all down to the form of Tedesco, because class is permanent, and as some teams might be about to find out, form, is very temporary.

3 COMMENTS

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