Chris Barrett – The Sydney Morning Herald
THERE are grand final losers – and grim, disconsolate dressing rooms – then there are the Sydney Roosters of 2010. There have been been tears, sure, and an abundance of sullen expressions as Brian Smith’s side comes to terms with defeat at the final hurdle.
However, beneath the bitter disappointment, the theme emanating from this group’s senior members is one of great expectations for next year and beyond. Beaten they were on Sunday night, and well, but with the volume of young talent in the line-up, one gets the impression this incarnation of the Roosters will be back on the grand final stage soon enough.
More than half of the 17 who played on Sunday night are 23 or under (winger Joseph Leilua, 18, sipped after the match on a beer he would not have been able to buy this time last year), although they showed composure well beyond their years before and after the blockbuster, rounding out the evening with a club function at Easts Leagues Club.
”If you had walked into the [dressing] room before the game, you wouldn’t have thought we were playing a grand final either,” said captain Braith Anasta, an elder statesman at 28.
”They’re so relaxed, they’re such a cool bunch of guys, they just love playing footy and they love having the opportunity. Even me and ‘Smithy’ mentioned before the game … we couldn’t believe how good shape they were in, how good a frame of mind they were in. They were just so relaxed, and I think that showed with the first half. We were right in it but everything came crumbling down in the second … the momentum and everything. But all the guys handled it well – I’m proud of them.”
Another of the senior figures, Anthony Minichiello, was also decidedly positive despite having been dealt a fourth grand final defeat in five career appearances. ”Some of the boys are really upset [but] when you look at the bigger picture, we came from last last year, it’s a great achievement,” the 30-year-old fullback said.
”We’ve restored a lot of pride back in the club and the jersey from last year, on and off the field, so [we will] just come back and do it all again next year. Our average age is really young so they can definitely learn from this, and I think we’ll be a much better team for it next year as well.”
Front-rower Jason Ryles, the eldest of the squad, will be 31 by the time next season kicks off but is adamant he will get another opportunity to win an elusive premiership with the Roosters.
”I think the feeling in the whole club is we’ve got 90 per cent of this group here in all our key positions filled with young guys, except for ‘Mini’ who has got lots of experience,” Ryles said. ”We’re going to be in the eight again, that’s for sure.”
The sentiment is the same among the Roosters’ predominantly younger players. Interchange forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who at 21 has fast developed into a force to be reckoned with, said the lessons learned from this campaign would be ”massive”.
”You’ve definitely got to take all the positives out of this game, and forget the negatives,” Waerea-Hargreaves said. ”So we’ll stay positive, work on it and come back bigger, faster, stronger next year.”