Mitchell Moses, Matthew Johns and James Tedesco.
Mitchell Moses, Matthew Johns and James Tedesco.

Matty Johns’ verdict on the game of the year

THE KEY

ROOSTERS

For the Roosters it's simple - win the battle through the middle.

When the Roosters forwards punch through and get fast play-the-balls, all the good stuff happens.

James Tedesco and Luke Keary get on the back of that momentum and are at the opposition defence so fast, terrorising them with speed, footwork and short passing.

Kyle Flanagan is really developing as a playmaker with the time and space his forwards are giving him. He and Keary have rapidly developed a quality combination.

 

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James Tedesco’s footwork is a scary proposition. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
James Tedesco’s footwork is a scary proposition. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

 

There are so many aspects of the Roosters' attack which impress me but the most simple is just about the most impressive, the footwork of their big yardage runners.

It's this fundamental skill which makes them so difficult to handle and allows Tedesco to have such a devastating impact.

PARRAMATTA

It's crucial that Parramatta's big middle men can control the Roosters' yardage game.

If the Roosters keep punching that metre or two through Parramatta's middle defence as they did against the Broncos and Dogs, then the Eels are no chance - in fact no team would be a chance.

Parramatta's middle men are going to need every bit of energy they can retain for the defensive challenge.

So Maika Sivo and Blake Ferguson need to have huge yardage games to elevate the pressure of their forwards and not leave them vulnerable to the Roosters' speed, footwork and short passing.

 

Rampaging winger Maika Sivo’s kick returns and yardage game will be crucial in slowing the Roosters’ excellent short game. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Rampaging winger Maika Sivo’s kick returns and yardage game will be crucial in slowing the Roosters’ excellent short game. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

 

IF I WERE THE ROOSTERS

Let's be honest, I wouldn't change a thing.

Parramatta have a big, strong pack of forwards, so I would centralise the attack, making that big, strong pack make tackle after tackle, after tackle.

Short passes, inside balls, late footwork, the more momentum created, the more direct you play.

If you do this right, the referee will get RSI from waving six-again.

There's an old saying in boxing: "Kill the body and the brain follows."

In rugby league terms, if you destroy a team's middle defence, you destroy the team.

IF I WERE PARRAMATTA

Parramatta have to play the long game. The Eels throw a lot of energy into their attack, but the Roosters are the best at absorbing pressure and nullifying quality attack.

The Eels have to be measured and deliberate in everything they do.

Forget about long structured sequences and clever attacking shapes, defensively the Roosters are too smart and too experienced, they'll recognise the threat immediately.

The Eels have to attack the individual rather than the Roosters' collective defence.

 

Dylan Brown, Junior Paulo and the Parramatta Eels have enjoyed a long turnaround between games. Picture: Adam Yip
Dylan Brown, Junior Paulo and the Parramatta Eels have enjoyed a long turnaround between games. Picture: Adam Yip

 

Dylan Brown, Mitch Moses and Clint Gutherson have to be able to identify a vulnerable middle defender and take him on directly with footwork or a short pass.

As far as moving the football, I'd attack the combination of Angus Crichton and Kyle Flanagan. They haven't played a lot together, so I'd test Angus' decision making and Kyle's physicality by attacking the gap between them with short pass options around Shaun Lane.

 

THE CONCERN

ROOSTERS

An 11-day turnaround into a five-day turnaround is tricky.

After the Roosters annihilated the Broncos, it was 11 days until the Dogs match.

You could see how fresh they were - the energy and speed of movement, the Dogs' heads were spinning.

But operating at that level takes more out of you than you think and they've had only five days to recover.

However, the Roosters can beat you several different ways.

Saturday night I'm anticipating a more gritty and grinding performance from them, rather than the "blow the opposition away" brilliance of the last fortnight.

 

Angus Crichton is finding career-best form with the Roosters. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts
Angus Crichton is finding career-best form with the Roosters. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

 

PARRAMATTA

Parramatta's problem last season was putting together back to back high standard performances.

They've improved a lot in this area but there are signs that they are edging toward a loss.

Two weeks ago coach Brad Arthur was openly disappointed in their performance against Manly, a win that could so easily have been a loss but for an incorrect forward pass decision.

Last week they needed a late surge after a slow start to lift them to victory over Penrith.

They are tempting fate.

 

THE STAR

ROOSTERS

Who else but James Tedesco.

I can't remember a better performance than Tedesco's against the Bulldogs on Monday night - three tries, two try assists, two line breaks, five line break assists, 10 tackle busts and drove the bus back to Bondi!

How do you stop Tedesco? You can't, you can only hope to reduce his impact by controlling the Roosters' go-forward.

When discussing this year's most improved player, I nominated Tedesco. It's a big call given he won last year's Dally M Medal but his football has reached new levels.

 

Luke Keary’s quick thinking will worry the Eels. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Luke Keary’s quick thinking will worry the Eels. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

 

PARRAMATTA

Mitchell Moses is having his best year of football. With the speeding up of the rucks, Moses has been close to the NRL's most dominant playmaker.

He's comfortable playing at speed, and wearing a bruise for his hole runners.

I really like his combination with Ryan Matterson, who is comfortable both running a gap or creating a gap and gives scope for plenty of variation.

 

The most important facet of Mitchell's game Saturday night is his kicking game, particularly his attacking kicks.

His kicks need to generate repeat sets and try scoring opportunities if Parramatta are to win.

 

THE THEME

ROOSTERS

Play fast and play through them.

PARRAMATTA

Be patient with the football and energised in defence. With 10 minutes to go be in a position to win.

Originally published as Matty Johns' verdict on the game of the year



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