2023 NRL Season Preview: Sydney Roosters

After a disappointing finish to last season, the Roosters are looking to be healthier this year, and back in the top tier of the competition.

Recap of last season

The Roosters would feel that last year's sixth-place finish was a disappointment, given the core of the side from the back-to-back premierships of 2018-19 was still in place.

Injuries hit hard, with Luke Keary struggling to stay on the park for extended parts of the season. The Roosters struggled to find a flow in the middle of the field, as Joey Manu, Luke Keary, Sam Walkers and others cycled through the halves positions, but with few combinations given time to settle.

Trouble hit though when the Roosters lost their cool under the tension of finals, something very uncharacteristic for this side under Trent Robinson.

Seven sin bins in a bloodbath against the Rabbitohs in the first week of the finals gave the Roosters an early holiday, and a chance to reflect on a year where it seemed like nothing could go right.

How they can improve

Aside from health from the big stars, the addition of Brandon Smith will help the Roosters work down the field out of the dummy half. His ability to get the ball up and moving quickly from the hooker position is almost unmatched.

With stars like James Tedesco, Luke Keary and Sam Walker behind him, getting the ball moving out to those wide players quickly will create more space for those players to be dangerous as they attack the width of the field and put opposition teams to the sword.

List changes

In: Corey Allan (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Jaxson Paulo (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Brandin Smith (Melbourne Storm), Jake Turpin (Brisbane Broncos), Robert Toia (Pathway).

Out: Sam Verrills (Gold Coast Titans), Oliver Gildart (Dolphins), Renouf Atoni, Adam Keighran, Kevin Naiqama, Siosiua Taukeiaho.

Biggest Strength

Raw star power. The Roosters have a star-studded lineup unlike any other in the competition, with genuine game-breakers across the backline and second row.

Victor Radley and Jared Wareah-Hargreaves are the engine room of a powerful forward pack, with Matthew Lodge adding further depth. Smith has the ability to turn a game by his own hand, when he gets in the mood to turn the dummy half into a rugby league exhibition.

The outside backs boast international experience at a range of positions, with Tedesco a perennial Kangaroo and NSW Origin representative, along with Daniel Tupou.

Further forward, Joey Manu and Joseph Sua'ali'i showed their international chops at the World Cup last year, and both have plenty of growth potential still.

Biggest weakness

If there is one weakness for the Roosters, it is the front row. Warea-Hargreaves and Lindsay Collins are expected to start in the front row, with Lodge the next man in the rotation.

The loss of Siosiua Taukeiaho over the offseason has hit the depth at that position, as Fletcher Baker, Tuku Hau Tapuha and Terrell May will look to make their mark filling his position.

The young trio have shown plenty of promise, but they have yet to stamp their authority at a first-grade level, and given Warea-Hargreave's age and tribunal record, chances are they will have the opportunity this season.

Rising Star

Joseph Sua'ali'i. Sua'ali'i has long been promised as one of the shining stars of the NRL for the next decade. So far, in his 24 first-grade caps since debut, he has lived up to, and even out-shone those predictions.

An off-season that included a glittering performance at the World Cup, Sua'ali'i will only go up another level this season.

If he continues on his current trajectory, it seems that there are two certainties:

Firstly - that rugby union will come calling to try and make him their biggest star

Secondly - he will have a massive impact on the Roosters heading towards a bounceback year and a premiership fancy.


The Roosters have so many stars, eventually, the injury tide will turn and the healthy side will be out on the paddock. Sam Walker, with another year under his belt, will be more comfortable taking the reins of the attack up and down the park.

Having a game-changing hooker like Brandon Smith will keep the Roosters in games when things aren't going their way, and having an outside trio that includes Tupou and Tedesco will give the Roosters the chance to make something out of nothing at any time.

Given the depth of the squad, and the sheer talent among it, the Roosters will almost certainly be in contention as the season gets to the pointy end and will be a strong chance to take home the title once the finals get underway.

Ladder Position: 4th