Round 9: Roosters v Sea Eagles preview
Underperforming Roosters look to take advantage of distracted Sea Eagles
The announcement of the signings of Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco had many assuming that Trent Robinson's Sydney Roosters would be lining up at ANZ Stadium on the 30th of September. We may be only eight rounds into the competition, yet that assumption has been abruptly shattered with the Roosters struggling for consistency in their 2018 campaign. The Tricolours enter Sunday afternoon's game in eighth position and a loss this weekend could see them drop to 11th position on the ladder with the Sharks, Broncos and Raiders all expected to pick up wins. It is hard to get a read on the Roosters when one considers their past five outings: a 30-6 loss to the Warriors, 28-10 win over Cronulla, 26-14 defeat to Souths, 6-0 victory over the Bulldogs and 24-8 loss to the Dragons last weekend. Earlier in the year, the Roosters also demonstrated their potential in back-to-back wins over the Bulldogs and Knights by 30-12 and 38-8 respectively. This is a team who, on paper, promises so much and is yet to prove themselves as genuine premiership threats. The biggest challenge for the Roosters is getting their big men performing on a consistent basis as while they have the firepower out wide, this means little if their forwards aren't laying a sufficient platform. The Roosters also lead the competition for errors with 108 - an average of 13.5 per game. If they cannot clean this up they simply cannot compete with the elite sides of the competition, as was evident in last week's defeat to St. George Illawarra.
Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles have more things to worry about than what's happening on the field. Off-field dramas have engulfed the club in recent weeks and unfortunately, they were not able to silence them last weekend when they fell to the Knights 18-12. The loss was compounded by a season-ending injury to five-eighth Lachlan Croker. Dylan Walker has been named in his place while exiled Tiger and Bulldog Moses Suli could be in line for his Manly debut in the centres. Maligned playmaker Jackson Hastings has been named on the extended bench and could warrant an unlikely return to first grade. While last week's defeat to Newcastle was an improvement on their 44-10 loss to the Eels a fortnight ago, coach Trent Barrett would have been ruing a missed opportunity to let their on-field performances doing the talking with player unrest still dominating the headlines this week.
Who to watch: For the Roosters, all eyes will be on Latrell Mitchell as he looks to increase his chances of an Origin berth. Mitchell has enjoyed a strong start to his 2018 campaign, with five tries, five line-breaks and an average of 4.4 tackle breaks per game. If the Sea Eagles do not aim up in defence out wide Mitchell will prove a serious threat given his dazzling footwork and power.
For the Sea Eagles, halfback Daly Cherry-Evans will really need to stand up and guide his struggling team around the park. DCE has not had the best start to 2018, managing just two try-assists so far from eight appearances. Cherry-Evans is also in the frame for an Origin jumper yet he will need to improve if he is to surpass the likes of Cameron Munster, Michael Morgan and Ben Hunt.