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Young talent time


The Roosters are entering a new era with high expectations, writes Michael Chammas.

Star power ... Sonny Bill Williams.

Star power ... Sonny Bill Williams. Photo: Getty Images

HE parks in the same car spot and sits at the same desk he did when his beloved Roosters were the powerhouse of the NRL.

But the challenge that confronts Brian Canavan in his second stint as chief executive is far different to the one he was thrown into in 2003 when he took control of a club that was at the pinnacle of rugby league. To liken the Roosters to a shipwreck would be a fair assessment of their past few seasons.

It was only 2½ years ago Brian Smith transformed the club from wooden spooners to grand finalists in the space of 12 months. They had what was considered the most promising crop of young players in the NRL and were fast earning the reputation as the game's premier entertainers.

St George Illawarra inflicted a 32-8 grand-final defeat and two years later, down went the ship. But as they prepare to set off on their maiden voyage under new coach Trent Robinson, there is a growing belief that this journey will bear the fruit of yesteryear.

"When I look back at the early 2000s, I see some similarities to this team," Canavan said. "We had the senior players like your Brad Fittlers and Luke Ricketsons. Then we had this big batch of players in their mid-20s and they were coming into their own - Mick Crocker, Ryan Cross, Craig Wing, Chris Flannery and Anthony Minichiello were all in that bracket. I see a lot of similarities in the balance we have now and what we had back then."

The average age of the Sydney Roosters side in 2003 was 23.96, while Robinson has taken over a squad with an average age of 23.68.



Securing the prized coup of Sonny Bill Williams was done before Canavan was reinstated as chief executive, but the task of ensuring the dual international remains a Rooster beyond the end of his one-year deal will be the top of his priorities this year.

Williams will join the Roosters in a fortnight after stints in Japanese rugby and boxing and will have less than a month to prepare for the start of the season. But Canavan has revealed the club will allow Williams the freedom to continue to explore his options in other sports - if it means he'll remain with the Roosters. "The sporting horizon has changed, and it's difficult for rugby league to accept that," Canavan said. "I'm from a traditional rugby league background, but I then have to open my mind about what modern-day sport is all about, and Alessandro Del Piero is a prime example. There is a lot more movement and a lot more flexibility needed to attract athletes.

"I accept Sonny's situation because it's just part of modern-day sport. What I'm comfortable with is that if Sonny does entertain the idea next off-season, he'll entertain it with balance. He won't say I want to do four fights a year, there'll be a balance. From what I've learned off Sonny since our pre-Christmas discussions, he's a real professional athlete both mentally and physically at 27 years of age. He'll only get better with his leadership role here at the club."

Williams had a huge impact at training, especially on the young players, in his brief time at the club before leaving to finish his rugby commitments in Japan. Canavan said there was no timeframe in his quest to re-sign the former Bulldogs back-rower, but is hopeful Williams will kick-start negotiations with his willingness to remain at the club.

"Sonny will be in demand, we know that," Canavan said. "But we have to make sure he's happy playing rugby league wearing a Roosters jersey. That happiness will come about by having really good structure, really good relationships and having success on-field. The club's at a real prime time right now and there's a future. We want him to say I'd like to be part of that beyond 2013."



It's quite a transition when you replace one of the longest-serving coaches in rugby league history with the most inexperienced in the NRL, but there's a genuine belief at the club that Robinson is the right man for the job.

Canavan was on the coaching staff during Robinson's playing days, and even back then it was clear a career in coaching beckoned for the young forward. "There are certain players that come through your journey that you just know are destined for coaching - Trent was one of those guys," Canavan said. "When he first came into the club as an 18-year-old front-rower, he was very inquisitive and he wanted to know why we were doing certain things. Not because he was questioning the methodology, but he wanted to understand and absorb the reasoning behind it." Robinson is the fifth coach of the Roosters in the past eight years. The players have developed a strong rapport with him since the start of pre-season in November.



It was media speculation surrounding Michael Jennings' future that triggered an interest from the Roosters in luring the NSW centre from Penrith to Bondi. Quite content with their roster for 2013, the Roosters didn't initiate negotiations - or an interest in Jennings for that matter - until a week before Christmas.

Recruitment guru Peter O'Sullivan met Jennings over the break to discuss a future at the tricolours, a notion that has since come to fruition. "It all started from a few media reports," Canavan said. "He had this very big contract at Penrith and there were certain issues within their club that we didn't know about. It happened largely because of the media exposure of Michael's situation with Penrith."

While there was plenty of criticism of Jennings' attitude at the Panthers, Canavan believes the Roosters can get the best out of the 24-year-old. He sees Jennings as a leader of the team having the third most NRL experience in the squad, but also a leader away from the field for the Polynesian community.

"I'd like to see him develop as a leader for the people of his background," Canavan said. "A lot of players at his age don't see themselves as being leaders, but I'd like to see Michael develop to whatever comfort level he's got. It'll be part of his realisation that he's a leader in this club now. He's no longer just one of these young players on the up. He is an established leader and that adds a bit more responsibility about how he goes about his preparation and application."



Canavan has given Roosters fans his assurance that the club will do everything in its power to keep halfback Mitchell Pearce. The NSW No.7 is off contract at the end of the season and has already attracted interest from St George Illawarra and Canterbury. But Canavan hopes Pearce will finish his career at the club. "I was here when he first came to the club and I can't picture Mitchell wearing another jersey," Canavan said. "I'd like to think Mitchell feels that way himself. I don't think we'll have stumbling blocks [retaining him]. I'd like to think Mitchell sees himself as a linchpin to taking us forward for a long period of time."



You could have understood if the Roosters handed the captaincy to Pearce as part of a plan to ensure he remains at the club beyond this season, but that was never an option. It was always going to be Anthony Minichiello, regardless of the fact he's the oldest captain in the competition - let alone on a one-year deal. "He had to be our captain," Canavan said. "I draw the parallel with Brad Fittler. Freddie had to be our captain - you didn't really know why, he just had to be. I have been around the club quite a while and have seen a lot of captains, but I haven't seen a prouder captain than Mini.''

The 32-year-old is five years older than the next oldest player in the squad, which happens to be Williams (27), and has more than 120 NRL games of experience than Pearce, who is second at the Roosters with 130 games. Minichiello (252 games) won't surpass Ricketson's club record of 301 matches unless he can extend his contract by at least another season. "You never say never with Mini," Canavan said. "He had the most severe of back injuries then he's back two-and-a-half years later playing for NSW, and now he's captain of the club. You imagine how many games he would've played if he didn't have four years off."

HuffPost Australia

NRL Season 2015

Round 1
Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6vs SOU 36 Report Stats
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 42vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 24vs NZW 14 Report Stats
GCT 18vs WST 19 Report Stats
NQL 4vs SYD 28 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 24vs CBY 18 Report Stats
CRO 20vs CBR 24 Report Stats
Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG 4vs MEL 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY 32vs PAR 12 Report Stats
CRO 2vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 40vs GCT 0 Report Stats
MAN 24vs MEL 22 Stats
NQL 14vs NEW 16 Report Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 34vs SYD 26 Stats
CBR 6vs NZW 18 Report Stats
Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST 22vs STG 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 12vs CBY 16 Report Stats
BRI 44vs NQL 22 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 29vs PAR 16 Report Stats
CBR 20vs STG 22 Report Stats
MEL 36vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 20vs WST 6 Report Stats
GCT 18vs NEW 20 Report Stats
Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 20vs PEN 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 29vs SOU 16 Report Stats
WST 24vs CBY 25 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 26vs PEN 14 Report Stats
CRO 22vs GCT 24 Report Stats
STG 12vs MAN 4 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 16vs BRI 24 Report Stats
SYD 34vs CBR 6 Report Stats
Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL 18vs MEL 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
CBY 17vs SOU 18 Report Stats
GCT 16vs BRI 26 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MAN 16vs CBR 29 Report Stats
NEW 0vs STG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 12vs CRO 20 Report Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 6vs WST 22 Report Stats
MEL 30vs NZW 14 Report Stats
PEN 10vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 22vs SYD 18 Report Stats
CRO 22vs NEW 6 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 16vs GCT 38 Report Stats
NZW 32vs WST 22 Report Stats
PEN 22vs MAN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR 10vs MEL 14 Report Stats
STG 31vs CBY 6 Report Stats
Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU 12vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 28vs MAN 16 Report Stats
STG 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT 32vs PEN 6 Report Stats
NQL 28vs NZW 24 Report Stats
MEL 17vs SYD 16 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
WST 22vs CBR 30 Report Stats
NEW 22vs PAR 28 Report Stats
Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO 18vs SOU 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 14vs WST 38 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
NZW 28vs GCT 32 Report Stats
NEW 24vs NQL 26 Report Stats
SYD 12vs STG 14 Report Stats
MEL 10vs MAN 12 Stats
BRI 28vs PAR 16 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN 26vs CRO 18 Stats
SOU 22vs CBR 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 8vs PEN 5 Report Stats
SYD 36vs WST 4 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 56vs GCT 16 Stats
CRO 16vs NZW 20 Stats
NQL 23vs CBY 16 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 30vs NEW 10 Stats
PAR 10vs MEL 28 Stats
Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 16vs STG 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CBY 10vs SYD 24 Stats
NQL 31vs BRI 20 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR 13vs NZW 17 Report Stats
GCT 22vs CRO 23 Report Stats
MEL 16vs SOU 12 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
STG 32vs CBR 18 Report Stats
NEW 22vs WST 12 Stats
Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 10vs PEN 11 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 14vs PAR 12 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
WST 0vs NQL 8 Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 34vs CBY 41 Stats
Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW 18vs BRI 31 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN 20vs PAR 26 Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT 16vs SOU 22 Report Stats
CBR 12vs BRI 24 Stats
NQL 18vs MAN 14 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW 24vs NEW 20 Stats
STG 42vs CRO 6 Stats
Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 24vs MEL 2 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI 44vs MAN 10 Report Stats
WST 20vs GCT 27 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 22vs CBR 44 Stats
SOU 36vs NZW 4 Stats
PEN 0vs MEL 20 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CRO 10vs SYD 4 Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY 29vs STG 16 Stats
PAR 30vs NQL 36 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
WST 34vs SOU 6 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 21vs SYD 25 Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT 28vs CBY 14 Stats
Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 22vs PAR 26 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN 30vs WST 20 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR 20vs NQL 21 Report Stats
GCT 14vs NZW 36 Report Stats
CBY 24vs PEN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 28vs CRO 30 Report Stats
MEL 12vs BRI 14 Report Stats
Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
STG 14vs SYD 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI 44vs NEW 22 Stats
SOU 20vs MAN 8 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 30vs CBR 8 Stats
NQL 18vs CRO 24 Report Stats
PAR 16vs STG 12 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 20vs GCT 10 Stats
WST 12vs PEN 35 Stats
Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY 20vs MEL 4 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 20vs SOU 6 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
STG 12vs NQL 18 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN 28vs CRO 16 Report Stats
Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WST 16vs PAR 28 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR 36vs NEW 22 Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 4vs SYD 24 Stats
CBY 8vs BRI 16 Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW 28vs MEL 14 Report Stats
CRO 28vs STG 8 Report Stats
Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT 6vs MAN 38 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR 4vs CBY 28 Report Stats
MEL 52vs PEN 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR 20vs CRO 21 Report Stats
NEW 30vs GCT 2 Report Stats
STG 8vs SOU 24 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 24vs NZW 0 Report Stats
BRI 42vs WST 16 Stats
Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN 12vs NQL 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI 34vs GCT 0 Report Stats
WST 8vs SYD 33 Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW 12vs MAN 32 Stats
MEL 22vs STG 4 Stats
SOU 52vs NEW 6 Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 24vs CBR 34 Report Stats
CBY 16vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL 46vs PAR 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 38vs CBY 28 Report Stats
WST 34vs MEL 16 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 14vs CRO 18 Stats
NQL 32vs CBR 24 Stats
MAN 44vs BRI 14 Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
STG 46vs NEW 24 Stats
SOU 20vs PEN 16 Report Stats
Mon, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
GCT 24vs PAR 14 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 16vs CBY 18 Report Stats
MAN 28vs SOU 8 Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 0vs STG 36 Stats
CRO 30vs NQL 18 Stats
PAR 10vs PEN 4 Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
NEW 22vs SYD 38 Report Stats
Mon, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 18vs WST 20 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
NQL 18vs SOU 31 Stats
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 32vs STG 6 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
WST 18vs NEW 24 Stats
PEN 24vs NZW 10 Stats
SYD 28vs PAR 18 Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 24vs MAN 26 Stats
CBY 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
Mon, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
CRO 2vs MEL 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
STG 19vs PEN 12 Report Stats
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 18vs CBY 32 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
CRO 40vs WST 18 Report Stats
NZW 16vs NQL 50 Report Stats
SYD 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
GCT 28vs CBR 12 Stats
MAN 16vs PAR 20 Report Stats
Mon, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 6vs NEW 20 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 12vs BRI 47 Report Stats
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
MAN 10vs SYD 46 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR 28vs CRO 35 Stats
NEW 18vs CBY 20 Stats
MEL 14vs NQL 6 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
WST 50vs NZW 16 Report Stats
GCT 28vs STG 26 Stats
Mon, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 34vs PEN 18 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI 8vs MEL 15 Report Stats
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 30vs SOU 0 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
PEN 30vs NEW 12 Stats
STG 32vs WST 30 Stats
NQL 42vs GCT 12 Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
PAR 24vs CBR 28 Stats
CRO 12vs MAN 14 Stats
CBY 26vs NZW 22 Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 1
Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 18vs MEL 20 Report Stats
Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
CBY 11vs STG 10 Report Stats
BRI 16vs NQL 12 Report Stats
Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
CRO 28vs SOU 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 2
Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 38vs CBY 12 Report Stats
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
NQL 39vs CRO 0 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 3
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI 31vs SYD 12 Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL 12vs NQL 32 Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 4
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI 16vs NQL 17 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
NRL Ladder 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D Pts
Sydney Roosters 24 18 6 0 40
Brisbane Broncos 24 17 7 0 38
North Queensland Cowboys 24 17 7 0 38
Melbourne Storm 24 14 10 0 32
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 24 14 10 0 32
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24 14 10 0 32
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 13 11 0 30
St George-Illawarra Dragons 24 12 12 0 28
View all

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