After falling agonisingly short of the 2015 NSW Cup premiership while being one of the benchmark teams in the competition (see their Finals Week Three victory in the video above), the road to redemption for Wyong Roos began this pre-season. The Sydney Roosters affiliation has been going for a year now, and Roos players including Tyler Cornish, Eloni Vunakece, Abraham Papalii and Brendan Elliot have already benefited from this in 2016 by earning an Auckland Nines appearance.
Located in the Central Coast, the Roos are no strangers to travelling, however the opening month of the season will test Rip Taylor's men. They open their account in Wentworthville, before travelling to Canberra and New Zealand in the next three weeks. The first Grand Final re-match against the Newcastle Knights in Round 9, which happens to be Country Round, before the Round 24 showdown at Morry Breen Oval.
Off-season focus: The thought of getting so close to the NSW Cup premiership, mixed with missing out on the minor premiership by a single for an against point would obviously play on the minds of everyone involved in the Roos’ setup. However, success on the field means forward thinking and lots of planning, so the thought of missing out in 2015 will have to be forgotten about to fully focus on the season ahead. Taylor pinpointed defence as the pre-season focus, and if the Roos can better their defensive efforts from last season, they will be a tough team to beat.
Biggest gain: In what is an extremely unfortunate situation for Taylor, the new recruit that impressed him the most in pre-season did his ACL in a training session. “A young kid that was impressing me was Luke Dolbel. He played with North Brisbane he was a Bronco kid but he did his ACL last Wednesday in an opposed session,” Taylor explained, “He was impressive with the way he applied himself to training and everything. So that’s disappointing.”
Toughest loss: The Roos will field an entirely different team in 2016, with the likes of Magnus Stromquist, Leivaha Pulu, Shaun Boss, Bennett Leslie, and Yileen Gordon having departed the club. Taylor, however, nominated utility Jono Ford as the clubs biggest loss, as he covered so many positions and made such an impact off the bench. While this will certainly be a tough hole to fill, the Roos have an incredibly solid spine with potential game-breakers such as Mitch Williams, Omar Slaimankhel and Tyler Cornish being able to fill the void.
Coach Taylor says: "[Pre-season] has been good. We’ve got Bruce Gulliver – a new strength and conditioning coach - and the boys have bought into that. There’s a lot more running than normal so that’s been well received. [Our main goal] is to obviously just start the season well, and talks [of last season] don’t last for long."
Future star: The departure of Sydney Roosters superstar Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has left an open fullback spot, something Omar Slaimankhel will certainly be gunning for in 2016. After joining the Roos halfway through last season after a stint in Japanese Rugby, the ex-Warriors u-20s dynamo helped guide his side to a maiden NSW Cup Grand Final appearance. With a full pre-season under his belt, expect the dangerous fullback to have an even bigger 2016.
Our prediction: With such an experienced and successful coach, plus an incredibly talented roster, there is absolutely no reason the Roos can – alike the Newcastle Knights last year – avenge their Grand Final defeat the very next season. Along with Mounties and Penrith, the Roos set the bar of consistency last year, and had an incredible finals series up until the very last game. A talented spine including inspiration captain Williams, along with Cornish and Slaimankhel gives the entire Wyong club something to look forward to in 2016.
Comings and goings
Gains: Kauri Apouri (NZ Warriors NYC), Nick Lynn (Manly NYC), Isaiah Cooper-Tetevano (NZ Warriors NYC), Luke Dolbel (Brisbane Broncos NYC), Jai Ingram (Gold Coast Titans), Kurt Warden (Souths Newcastle), Dallas Koen (Manly NYC).
Losses: Magnus Stromquist (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Leivaha Pulu (Gold Coast Titans), Shaun Boss (Lakes United), Bennett Leslie (rugby union), Jono Ford (Toulouse Olympique), Yileen ‘Buddy’ Gordon (Wentworthville Magpies), Samisoni Langi (North Sydney), Willie Manu (Narellan Jets), Jack Siejka (North Sydney), Matt McIlwrick (Cronulla Sharks), Suaia Matagi (Penrith Panthers), Nathan Stapleton (London Broncos), Lopini Paea (released).