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Does history beckon for the Sydney Roosters?

The Sydney Roosters will aim to become the first side since the Parramatta Eels to win three championships on the bounce. The Roosters won the NRL Grand Final for the second year courtesy of a controversial victory over the Canberra Raiders. Sam Verrills scored the opening try of the game, only after Sydney benefited from the rub of the green after their physio inadvertently deflected a blocked kick. Verrills received the ball from the resulting scrum and touched down over the line for the score.

James Tedesco secured the vital score in the second half to take the game away from Canberra, although referee Ben Cummins did not make himself a popular man in the capital by overturning his initial decision to award another set of six tackles to the Raiders. Trent Robinson’s men were clinical, sending the title back to Sydney for the second season in succession. The Roosters are the leading contenders in the NRL betting odds at 13/4 to win the crown for a third year, and it’s hard to look past them given that they are returning the majority of their roster from the last campaign.

Cooper Cronk is one of the notable departures as the 36-year-old called time on his career. South Sydney Rabbitohs secured a coup by snatching the services of Latrell Mitchell from their rivals. The Roosters will miss the experience of Cronk and the dynamic threat of the centre, who notched an incredible 65 tries in 95 appearances for the club along with 209 goals. It will not be easy to replace their impact, but the Sydney machine will keep on running with Robinson at the helm.

All eyes will be on 21-year-old Kyle Flanagan as he looks to fill the void of Cronk at half-back. Flanagan was under-utilised by the Cronulla Sharks last term, but will be given the license by Robinson to display his potential for the Roosters. He does have a lot of experience around him, which could allow him to bed into the side. However, Cronk’s control in the crucial moments in big games will still be missed. It will take a lot of time for Flanagan to display that clinical edge. Lachlan Lam could push him for the starting berth should his performances dip, but for now Flanagan has the chance to nail down the position for the long term.

Sydney suffered a massive blow when the heir apparent to Mitchell – Billy Smith suffered a torn ACL during the off-season, which will rule him out for the rest of the term. Angus Crichton and Brett Morris will be vying for the spot, although neither have quite the exciting presence of Smith nor Mitchell. Ryan Hall will boost the ranks again after he missed the majority of the 2019 season with an ACL injury of his own, even though at the age of 32 his best days are probably behind him. As a result, Matt Ikuvalu should be on course for a starting spot in the side.

The strength of the rest of the roster led by Boyd Cordner and Luke Keary should see the Roosters through the regular season and into the Finals series once again. Both men are in the prime of their careers and have been the heartbeat of the team. If they remain at the peak of their powers, Robinson’s men should have no problem returning to the Grand Final in their attempt to make history and match the achievement of the Eels’ sides of 1981-1983.

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