It’s a mighty tall order to better his first year as an NRL head coach, but Trent Robinson sees no reason why the Sydney Roosters can’t become the first team to win back-to-back premierships since Brisbane in 1997-98.
Robinson’s appointment proved a masterstroke as the 36-year-old former Catalans mentor guided the Roosters to their first premiership in 11 years, in addition to clinching the minor premiership.
While Roosters supporters are still basking in the glow of that 26-18 grand final win over Manly last October, Robinson said his first job upon returning for pre-season was to order the coaching staff and players to move on.
They gave every sign they’ve taken the message to heart as they thrashed Super League champions Wigan 36-14 to win the World Club Challenge.
“Refocusing before each year is important for not just me and the coaching staff but the players. It’s what good teams do,” said Robinson.
“I’ve had the time to savour the memory of that grand final, but I moved on a long time ago and so have all of the players.
“It’s done and if we want to do it again we have to make sure we’re fully focused.”
Robinson’s under no illusions as to how tough it’ll be to go back to back, but with a squad stacked with talent he’s knows it’s achievable.
“It’s not just about the players knowing how to win big games, it’s about the coaches too,” he said.
“I thought we could win the comp by about round 12 last year. I knew the players were ready, but the big question was were we as coaches ready?
“We had to make sure we were on top of everything for the players and it worked out. If we keep those high standards then we’re confident we have the team to be successful again.”
The Roosters’ were one of the big spenders in 2013, signing stars Sonny Bill Williams, James Maloney, Michael Jennings to augment a talented but youthful squad.
All three played major roles in last year’s success but Robinson believes back-rower Boyd Cordner at just 21 can be the key figure in 2015.
“Boyd was extremely impressive last year and to go from City-Country, to NSW, to winning a premiership to being a part of the Australia World Cup-winning team was what he deserved,” Robinson said.
“He’s been a great player his whole career but he has a lot of petrol in the tank to be a major player at this club for a very long time.
“He’s had a few injuries on the way but with his drive and determination he was always going to make it.”
The Roosters’ recruitment has been far more low key this year but the signing of French captain Remi Casty has been an intriguing one.
Robinson knows the prop well from his time coaching Catalans and is confident he can make an impression in the NRL.
“He’s a very mobile front-rower who can do both sides of the game,” he said.
“He runs hard and tackles well. His English is OK, he’s working to improve it. He’ll add some depth to cover for Martin Kennedy’s departure and will go alright.”
Finishes over the past three seasons: 2013 – Premiers, 2012 – 13th, 2011 – 11th
Coach: Trent Robinson
Captain: Anthony Minichiello
Gains: Remi Casty (Catalans), Heath L’Estrange (Bradford), Sio Siua Taukeiaho (Warriors), Jonathan Reuben (Raiders), Jackson Hastings (Dragons).
Losses: Josh Ailaomai (Dragons), John Asiata (Cowboys), Jack Bosden (Western Suburbs Red Devils), Adam Henry (Bradford), Martin Kennedy (Broncos), Lama Tasi (Salford), Henare Wells (Queensland Cup), Nafe Seluini (Burleigh Bears)
Strength: All-round. A world-class pack containing the likes of Boyd Cordner, Sonny Bill Williams and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves coupled with a red-hot backline including the NSW Origin halves inside Michael Jennings and Roger Tuivasa-Scheck.
Weakness: Hard to pinpoint, but the Roosters were fortunate with injuries last year so the losses of Martin Kennedy, Luke O’Donnell means forward depth could be tested more this season.
Money man: Sonny Bill Williams. In his final year with the club before returning to rugby. Williams famously touched the ball just eight times in the second half of the grand final win over Manly and each touch led to the scoring or saving of a try. His big game ability makes him a priceless asset.
One to watch: Jackson Hastings. Son of Roosters great Kevin Hastings, is rated as one of the best young playmakers in the game. Could get his chance to shine if Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney are on State of Origin duty.
Best team: Anthony Minichiello, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Daniel Tupou, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Boyd Cordner, Sonny Bill Williams, Frank Nuuausala. Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Remy Casty, Dylan Napa, Mitchell Aubusson.
Predicted finish: 1st