Even with the tinge of controversy, it is hard to argue the Sydney Roosters didn’t deserve their second straight premiership. And the Tricolours have the talent to go back-to-back-to-back, writes ANTHONY GRIFFIN.
The Sydney Roosters did what many people were starting to say was almost impossible — become the first team to win back-to-back titles since Brisbane in 1992-93.
Now their task is to emulate the great Eels side that secured the 1981, ‘82 and ‘83 titles.
And assuming there are no surprise off-season exits, they should only get stronger.
The average age of the list is only 25.5 years, but it is the identity they are forging as a club is the most impressive thing.
In 2018 they destroyed the Melbourne Storm in the first 30 minutes.
Just think about that for a second — the Storm, who were defending premiers and in their third grand final in a row were powerless to stop them, even with Cooper Cronk physically unable to contribute.
The Roosters piled on 18 points and out-muscled them defensively in the first half which rendered the second half a formality of time.
It was very different this year.
After getting a customary early lead in the first 10 minutes they played most of the next 70 minutes on the back foot.
The Raiders had the benefit of five minutes more time in possession and dominated field position for the rest of the game.
Add to this the sin binning of Cronk for 10 minutes with the scores locked at 8-all and the Roosters were in big trouble.
Canberra were coming to get them. They had overrun the Storm in Melbourne twice in the last 20 minutes and were bearing down on the ultimate scalp.
After refusing to yield in defence the Roosters climbed off the canvas with two brilliant plays.
Deep in his own half, Victor Radley delivered a beautiful ball to Siosiua Taukeiaho.
That linebreak against the run of play said a lot about the Roosters.
They are extremely resilient and full of self-belief.
Then came the knockout blow. Yes, the call to give them possession was controversial, but what happened next from their own end of the field was all class.
They sensed that this was the opportunity and the execution was laser like. Luke Keary, short side to Latrell Mitchell, back-hand flick to Tupou at full pace, draw and pass to James Tedesco tracking up in perfect position — game over.
The retirement of Cronk obviously leaves a big whole to fill.
His contribution over the last two years has empowered his teammates which will help with the transition. Last year’s decider was a perfect example when his role reverted to an under 8s coach running with the team talking them through each play.
Keary has benefited the most from his education and at 27 is now a three-time premiership winning playmaker.
Cronk will be around to help develop Sharks recruit Kyle Flannagan next season. He is a very talented young halfback in similar mould to his new mentor.
The senior players in Jake Friend (29), Boyd Cordner (27) and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (30) are all multiple premiership winners and right in their sweet spot.
Keary and Tedecso (26) still have their best football in front of them and Mitchell (22), Manu (23) and Radley (21) are only just getting started.
The Roosters classy and talented, but they also have a ruthless work effort and resilience about them.
They conceded only 20 points in three games in the finals. They won without the ball on Sunday, despite losing Mitch Aubusson in the 12th minute and Cronk’s sin binning.
One title wasn’t enough to satisfy them, they wanted two.
Who’s to say they won’t get three?