OPINION

Roosters up against it in chase for third straight NRL title

Sydney Roosters players celebrate their 2019 NRL Grand Final win over Canberra. With two first-up losses and a tough draw ahead, the Roosters will be up against it in their hunt for a premiership three-peat in 2020. Photo: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

Sydney Roosters players celebrate their 2019 NRL Grand Final win over Canberra. With two first-up losses and a tough draw ahead, the Roosters will be up against it in their hunt for a premiership three-peat in 2020. Photo: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

Is there a club under any more pressure heading into the rebooted NRL season than the Sydney Roosters?

The defending premiers are a champion outfit.

Coach Trent Robinson and his team have proven that beyond doubt over the past two seasons when they have been the yardstick for every other team.

They have won premierships off the back of the high standards they set themselves, their consistency and their ability to time their run so that they don't peak too early and are at the top of their game when it really matters down the stretch.

They boast some wonderful players.

Fullback James Tedesco is arguably the number one player in the game right now, Luke Keary one of the premier halves and their forward pack is tough, mobile and skilful.

But they are going to need every ounce of all their champion qualities combined if they are to secure a three-peat of NRL premierships in 2020.

A lot is going to have to go right for them and if they can pull it off, it will be a magnificent effort.

For starters, the Roosters are already four points adrift of the premiership front runners after losing their opening two games before the lockdown.

Those defeats have been magnified by the fact the premiership has been shortened.

For their high profile chairman Nick Politis to come out so publicly and call on the ARL Commission to scrap the competition points from those first two rounds and allow every team to start from scratch again is an indication of how important the Roosters view those first two defeats.

Now, just to pile on the pressure even more, they are one of the teams worst affected by the revamped draw.

Four of the five teams the Roosters have drawn to play twice - South Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne - are all rated premiership contenders.

Only St George Illawarra, who also lost their opening two games, are considered a finals long shot.

So the premiers have it all to do and they will have to do it without two of their kingpins from the past two seasons, Cooper Cronk and Latrell Mitchell.

It makes next Friday's first-up clash against the Rabbitohs crucial.

Just imagine if they were to drop that game to their arch-rivals to go 0-3, they then face a massive challenge north of the border against the Broncos in Brisbane the following Thursday night.

In contrast, the premiership favourites and my tip to win the comp, Canberra Raiders, have fared far better draw-wise, having to meet the Storm, Titans, Warriors, Roosters and Dragons twice.

Where the Raiders are disadvantaged is that they don't get to play any of their early home games in the national capital and will have to settle for Campbelltown Stadium as their home base for at least the opening nine rounds.

It's exciting to think we are just a week away from a restart.

How good is it going to be to be able to watch and talk about the actual footy again.

I'm really keen to see which teams adapt the quickest to the new ruck rules and the concept of playing under one referee.

It's going to be crucial. There is no doubt the ruck will be quicker and defences will be opened up more easily.

The teams with the fast, skilful hookers and playmakers and mobile forwards are the ones who should benefit the most.

I can see the likes of Damien Cook at Souths becoming even more lethal than he already is while the Storm's Cameron Smith and Josh Hodgson from the Raiders will also be looking forward to taking advantage of the new opportunities that present themselves.

It's going to he fascinating viewing.

How will the Panthers handle the opening couple of weeks without their chief playmaker Nathan Cleary? Can the Knights build on their encouraging start under rookie coach Adam O'Brien without their first string hooker Jayden Brailey?

Are Parramatta ready to take advantage of a good draw and the luxury of playing a lot of games at their Bankwest Stadium home and become a force again? Can the Dragons give their fans something to cheer about and ease the pressure building on coach Mary McGregor?

There are so many questions to be answered with the challenge facing the Roosters one of the biggest. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.

INGLIS SHOCK

I was as surprised as anyone with the news Greg Inglis is coming out of retirement to have a season in the English Super League with Warrington.

Provided his body is right and his motivation is spot on which it must be, I think he will absolutely kill it over there.

He was one of the superstars of our game and while I'm not convinced he would have been able to make a successful comeback to the NRL after all that time away from the game, I think he will handle it easily over in England where the week-to-week intensity of the competition is nowhere near as great as it is here.

They have a few quality teams over there but the depth of their competition is nothing like it is here in Australia.

One thing is certain, GI will be a massive drawcard over there for the competition and the game as a whole. He's a wonderful bloke who I'm sure will do whatever he can while he is there to promote the game. I wish him all the best.

This story A Roosters three-peat? They'll have to do it the hard way first appeared on The Canberra Times.