Bitterly disappointed Roosters fans have plenty of reason to be optimistic for next year despite a season-ending and morale-crushing 31-12 loss in the preliminary final against Brisbane Broncos.
VB NSW Cup affiliates, Wyong Roos, provide a golden path to the next generation of NRL stars – including Brendan Elliot, Abraham Papalii, Tyler Cornish, Jack Siejka and Omar Slaimankhel – who take part in Sunday’s VB NSW Cup Grand Final against the Newcastle Knights at Pirtek Stadium.
This year’s third-straight minor premiers established a winning partnership with the Central Coast side of Wyong at the start of the season, which has already paid dividends for both sides.
“The affiliation with the Roosters has been sensational but not only for Wyong but also for the Central Coast,” said Wyong coach Rip Taylor. “I’m a great believer that in three or four years time for the Central Coast and the Roosters, it will be a great move. The Roosters have been excellent to work with.
“Going forward, it will be a great marriage.”
Wyong are the Cinderella story of the VB NSW Cup, going from dead last in their inaugural season in 2013 to 2015 grand finalists. There’s no doubt much of their success is attributed to their alliance with the Roosters.
“Overall it’s been both (successful on and off field) to tell you the truth,” Taylor said. “All the players have been great to coach. No one’s come back kicking stones or stuff like that.
“Off the field, the Roosters have been great to work with. I can’t throw a dark cloud over any of it.”
Recently signing a new two-year extension with the Roosters, Elliot made his mark in the NRL in a big way, stepping up for the club’s first-grade side in the absence of Kiwi-international winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall. The Roosters won all eight games Elliot played in along with scoring eight tries.
With a stack of up and coming talent on show in the VB NSW Cup Grand Final, Roosters fans can get a preview of what’s to come soon.
Off-contract 23-year-old Wyong fullback Slaimankhel is worth the price of admission alone. Part of the Warriors NYC premiership winning sides in 2010 and 2011, Slaimankhel left a promising career to play rugby in Japan for two years.
It was Sonny Bill Williams himself that recruited Slaimankhel back to rugby league on a deal with the Roosters.
Knights fans also have cause to be hopeful for next season. While the club’s first-grade side missed the NRL top eight, the Knights have been a finals juggernaut in the VB NSW Cup Finals Series, enduring three weeks of sudden death football to reach the premiership decider.
Like Wyong, Newcastle is loaded with young stars ready to showcase their talent in the VB NSW Cup Grand Final.
“Obviously Jake Mamo and Jaelen Feeny (stand out),” Taylor said. “Young Joseph Tapine played quite well on the weekend. There’s a good half a dozen more, then they’ve got their workers.
“They’re a well-rounded footy side.“
The future is bright for the Roosters and Knights if the developing young talent featuring in Sunday’s grand final is anything to go by.
While Roosters fans lament a lacklustre finish to their premiership campaign and questions about their immediate future are raised, Wyong are foreshadowing future feats for the first-grade side.
Think you can hear the fat lady singing?
Think again, as the Roosters remain one of the NRL’s competition powerhouses.