Proud Sydney Roosters coach Brian Smith declared his club was ‘back on the map’ despite St George Illawarra cutting short one of the most remarkable turnarounds in rugby league history.
The Dragons’ comprehensive 32-8 win in Sunday’s grand final left the Tricolours one victory short of becoming the first club since 1934 to go from wooden spooners to premiers inside a year.
But despite the disappointment of seeing another title slip away – it was Smith’s fourth defeat in a decider – the Roosters’ mentor is confident the road to Bondi is lined with gold.
“I think they’ve done a great job in resurrecting pride in the Rooster emblem, the Rooster jersey,” Smith said.
“I think the Sydney Roosters are back on the map.”
“We want to keep it that way next year and go a little better if we can.”
“That’s what our target will be.”
Skipper Braith Anasta conceded the pain of losing the grand final will take some getting over but predicted the experience will prove beneficial to the club moving forward.
“It’s an empty feeling. Everyone was pretty upset,” he said.
“But they will learn a lot, not just from tonight but the whole year.”
“I am proud of every individual. I think they have done the club proud and put pride in the Roosters jersey.”
“It’s disappointing to finish like this but it’s been an exceptional year.”
The Roosters’ fairytale looked on course for a happy ending at half-time, with the Tricolours leading 8-6 after bustling the Dragons into uncharacteristic errors in the wet and slippery conditions.
But the second half belonged to the Red V, the Roosters unable to go with them.
Smith was unhappy with a number of decisions he felt went against his side but acknowledged the Dragons played to the conditions a lot better.
“I thought we’d done a really good job at that stage (half-time),” he said.
“With a bit more luck we could have been in front by more.”
“St George (Illawarra) took full advantage of the weather conditions – it probably didn’t suit us as much as they suited the Dragons.”
“The rub of the green went against us but we’ve probably had a bit of that going ourselves in the last few weeks.”
“We won’t be making a song and dance about…maybe just a song.”
Asked where this defeat ranked among his previous disappointments, Smith replied: “They all hurt. Grand finals hurt more when you lose them but they’re really hard if you haven’t had a proper lash at them.”
“I think we did that. Every bloke made his contribution towards us giving it our best shot.”
“In the end we just weren’t good enough.”
“Half the people I know are Dragons fans so I’m kind of happy for them – it’s been a long wait – but I’m hurting at the same time because it something I certainly want to experience myself.”