NRL Round 1 predicted teams: Sydney Roosters – upheaval ahead with question marks over roster
As part of a series profiling the expected Round 1 sides for all 17 NRL clubs in 2024, it’s time to check in on the Roosters as they try to get back into the upper echelon.
The Roosters have refreshed their roster on the run but it still looks to be in a state of flux heading into the new season.
Knights speedster Dominic Young and Panthers prop Spencer Leniu have arrived at the Tricolours after much fanfare, Wallabies winger Mark Nawaqanitawase is on his way next year with Joseph Suaalii replacing him in rugby’s ranks.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is entering his final season while the long-term future of off-contract five-eighth Luke Keary and second-rower Angus Crichton is yet to be sorted.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson doesn’t let excuses from off-field matters get in the way of his focus to bring a fourth premiership to the club under his watch.
If everything goes right, he has the team at his disposal to rival premiers Penrith and fellow challengers like Brisbane and South Sydney, but the Roosters in recent seasons have lacked the consistency that made them the premiership benchmark alongside the Storm before the Panthers became the kings of the NRL jungle with three straight titles.
Young and Leniu are quality additions and at 22 and 23 respectively, they are a much-needed injection of youth into a veteran roster.
The Roosters looked a little off the pace when it came to speed on the edges last season but Young, one of the fastest players in the competition, will solve that issue.
They have added another Englishman with pace in 21-year-old Wakefield Trinity winger Lewis Murphy, who scored 19 tries for his club in just 22 outings last year.
Veteran centre Michael Jennings has returned to the club after serving a drugs ban as a back-up out wide – he is just two games short of reaching the 300 game milestone in the NRL.
The Roosters have said goodbye to several players from last year’s squad, losing plenty of depth along the way.
Young prop Fletcher Baker’s switch to the Broncos is a body blow but when you have a star like Leniu joining the club, it’s not as significant.
Back-up hooker Jake Turpin and utility Drew Hutchison have joined the Bulldogs, winger Jaxson Paulo has joined Matt Lodge and Nathan Brown at Manly, Corey Allan is now a Dragon and Paul Momirovski has linked with Leeds in the Super League.
Key spots to unlock
There are five quality candidates fighting out the four spots in the outside backs.
Daniel Tupou is an institution at the Roosters on the left wing, Joey Manu is the best centre in the game and Young has not been lured from Newcastle to play in the NSW Cup so he’s likely to be on the right flank.
That leaves Robinson with a decision between playing Suaalii at centre where he seemed to be less effective last season or go with a specialist in the reliable Billy Smith.
Suaalii is set to get first shot unless there are injuries in the backline and Manu is needed to fill in at fullback or five-eighth.
Both second row spots are up for grabs.
Nat Butcher is coming off a career-best season, the club has invested heavily in impressive young gun Siua Wong, Kiwi international Sitili Tupouniua is fit again after a neck injury sidelined him for much of 2023 while Angus Crichton is another proven performer.
Leniu left Penrith because he wanted a starting gig and after going toe to toe with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves on the field last season, the young bull and the grizzled veteran will be butting heads on the training paddock for the right to pack down alongside Lindsay Collins.
Round 1 predicted team
1 James Tedesco
2 Daniel Tupou
3 Joseph Manu
4 Joseph Suaalii
5 Dominic Young
6 Luke Keary
7 Sam Walker
8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
9 Brandon Smith
10 Lindsay Collins
11 Sitili Tupouniua
12 Nat Butcher
13 Victor Radley
14 Connor Watson
15 Siua Wong
16 Angus Crichton
17 Spencer Leniu
Other squad members: Egan Butcher, Billy Smith, Sandon Smith, Tyler Moriarty, Terrell May, Junior Pauga, Robert Toia, Naufahu Whyte, Zach Dockar-Clay.