Roosters fans are preparing to see their side go to battle with arch rivals the Bunnies on Saturday night.
The script could not have been written any better. Two foundation clubs going to battle in front of a sold out Allianz Stadium, the last ever game before it is torn down and rebuilt.
A spot in the Grand Final is on the line to set up a clash with the Storm, who have qualified for their third straight decider.
They will enter the do-or-die contest sans their big prop Dylan Napa and weapon outside back in Latrell Mitchell, both through suspension, but will enjoy home grand advantage and the advantages that come after a week off.
Here is why they can/cannot win the title in 2018.
Why the Roosters can win the title:
– Cooper Cronk: The superstar halfback was brought to Bondi to win a title and he is oh, so close. Cronk is the most successful modern day halfback.
He has led his side to two straight Grand Finals while helping his state and country record utter dominance. A few doubted that outside the Storm system he would struggle; they were wrong.
Cronk is, by far, the most experienced half left in the final four. He and Luke Keary are arguably the best combination left. Few could argue. He is the key to this title race from here.
– Experienced Coach: Trent Robinson knows how to guide a side to a premiership. Yes he is one of two remaining coaches to have premierships on their resume, but Robinson has a stack of experience at this level.
This Roosters side were struggling at the start of the season. The hype was insane, the expectation was crippling, but Robinson kept the heat of his star players and allowed them to find their feet.
He’s a master in the press and can devise a game plan that can take down any side.
He doesn’t have the reputation of a Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy but he is a proven winner with a calm demeanour. Perfect for this stage of the season.
– X-Factor: They’ll be without their main attacking weapon tomorrow night, as Latrell Mitchell is the most dangerous outside back in the competition right now.
Blake Ferguson is a metre eating machine with plenty of tries to his name. Daniel Tupou is capable of the most freaky of moments.
Victor Radley is the most exciting forward going around. He can do anything, at any time. I dare you to predict his next move. Impossible.
If the game plan is not working the Roosters can throw to plan B like no other side. Keary is ridiculous when he’s playing what’s in front of him.
It’s a dangerous way of approaching such a mammoth game, but if they can get past the Bunnies, neither the Storm will struggle to match them if they throw the ball around.
Why the Roosters can’t win the title:
– Out classed middle: With all due respect to the Roosters’ pack, which is hardly a bunch of journeymen thrown in together, they probably have the third most imposing pack of the three remaining sides.
That’s no knock on a side that includes the likes of JWH and Boyd Cordner, but I’d take the Bunnies’ pack over this side truthfully.
I’d certainly take the Storm’s 8-13 and bench over this side.
Once again, that’s not a knock on this pack, but they’re going to have to outclass two incredible sets of forwards to lay the platform for Cronk and co to go to work. Big ask.
– Pressure: Everyone expects the Roosters to beat the Bunnies then bounce the Storm. Fans, experts and everyone in between have had the Roosters title favourites since the pre-season.
You add a million dollar a year halfback, that ads pressure. You add the game’s next superstar fullback, pressure. Replacing Pearce with Cronk lifted that pressure ten fold.
They won’t enjoy a massive home ground advantage but they have home facilities in their favour. They’ve had the week off and have rested up. They have the game’s best roster. They’ve got to win, right?
Pressure has brought down bigger and better sides in the past. It’s impossible to prepare for the weight of expectation.
– Missing cattle: If they get done on Saturday night the Roosters brass will be quick to make it clear that Mitchell and Napa being out was not the reason for the result.
They can say that all they want but you take the game’s form centre out of the side and this game has a completely different complexion.
Napa’s form wasn’t exactly breaking down the barn but he’s a huge out. With the Burgess twins ready to bash anything in their path, the tri-colours could really use the Maroon book end.
If they get past the Bunnies tomorrow night, they’re favourites to lift the title next Sunday evening. This is their biggest test.