Ladder position: 6th
Competition points: 28
Points scored (including finals): 534
Points conceded (including finals): 502
A reasonably strong finish saw them make the top eight, but it was a season marred with inconsistency for 2015 Grand Finalists Wyong. Failing to string three wins together throughout their 24 games, it all eventually came crashing down for the Roos as they lost 26-16 to the Wests Tigers in the Semi Final.
What has stood out at Wyong for some time has been the enormity of their pack and in 2016, they were a force to be reckoned with when the forwards got a roll on. A strong return from former Knight Zane Tetevano earned him a Roosters contract for 2017, while Eloni Vunakece was handed his first grade debut at 28 years of age. Mitch Frei and Paki Afu were damaging for the Wyong side, with Abraham Papalii continuing to show his utility value in both the pack and on the wing. Skipper Mitch Williams, as usual, took on a big workload and was consistent in the hooking role.
The Roos made the finals on the back of a reasonably safe brand of football that saw them hold the best completion rate in the competition, while defence pitted them well inside the top eight. Ultimately, however, the Roos were unable to perform against the top teams and of their nine games against the eventual top four teams, they only managed two wins in Round 2 and Round 18 – against Mounties and Newtown respectively.
Aside from a 58-14 thrashing of Manly in Round 17, Wyong had few really big wins to celebrate this season. Given the circumstances, however, their Golden Point win over Canterbury-Bankstown in the first Elimination Final must be considered their best performance of 2016.
While the Roos had been sitting in the top eight – but unable to crack the top four – for some time leading into September, the do-or-die showdown in Finals Week 1 was inevitable and with the Bulldogs in dangerous form, they could not take the game lightly. After trailing 16-12 at half-time, the Roos would be the only try scorers in the second stanza thanks to a vital four-pointer to Omar Slaimankhel, with Cornish slotting a penalty goal to take the lead soon after. When Bronson Garlick was then sin-binned midway through the second half, the Bulldogs were on the ropes, but a Dominic Reardon brain snap would reduce the Roos to 12 men just as Garlick returned to the field. A Canterbury-Bankstown penalty goal in the dying moments forced the game into extra time, before a Joey Lussick field goal eventually put Wyong through to the next week. In a game with so many ups and downs, the Roos did well to maintain their composure and defend exceptionally – especially in the second half.
When looking at Wyong’s losses in 2016, it becomes clear that attacking flare was lacking at times; they completed at 82% and held 52% possession against North Sydney in Round 21, but lost by 24 points, while they lost by 22 to Mounties in Round 16 despite only one more error and 49% possession. The Roos’ biggest loss where they were completely outdone by the opposition came against the Jets back in Round 11.
Just 40% possession and 65% completion – thanks to 11 penalties and five penalties – made it difficult for Wyong against the in-form Newtown side, although even then they were competing until late in the game. The Roos held a four-point advantage heading into the final quarter, but four Jets tries before full-time resulted in the lopsided scoreline. The Roos would have been disappointed with their finish, but took it to the Cutters the following week and only narrowly lost to the eventual Grand Finalists.
An important turning point in the latter half season came in the Roos’ demolition of the Sea Eagles back in Round 17. Scoring a huge 11 tries to Manly’s three, Wyong were completely dominant across all categories: 62% possession, 85% completion and 664 more metres saw the visitors rack up the monster score at Brookvale Oval.
The Roos would go on to win five of their last eight games in the regular season, including the only string of three victories all year. It primed the team well for finals football, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be when they met with the Tigers in Week 2.
The Roos had a reasonably consistent roster throughout 2016 and as mentioned above, the formidable pack of Tetevano, Frei, Vunakece and at times Papalii was an obvious highlight. Joey Lussick and Tyler Cornish combined well for most of the season, while Omar Slaimankhel and Dominic Reardon were potent in various positions in the back line. It remains to be seen how many of these will continue to be a part of the Roos and Roosters’ system, but there is plenty of upside should they remain in 2017.
Destined for the NRL:
Mitch Frei, at 24 years of age, was given six games in the tricolours this season and will expect to add to that next year after a solid year for both the Roosters and Roos. While Zane Tetevano has played 29 NRL games for the Knights in the past, he appears destined to return to the top grade after his time out of the game. Jake Lewis and Tyler Cornish have been coming through the system at the Roosters for some time now and will hope to take it to the next level in 2017; Cornish in particular could be some chance given the shake-up of the halves at Bondi.
Defence should be an area of improvement for Wyong, but they are not too far off in any aspect of their game. The ability to make the most of strong field position and a bulk of position should be a focus for the future as well – Cornish and Lussick have been good at building pressure, but at times the side has failed to come away with points despite having golden opportunities.
Witness history this September at the 2016 NSWRL Grand Final Day. On Sunday, 25 September the Intrust Super Premiership NSW decider, along with the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield Grand Finals, take place at Pirtek Stadium, with tickets just $10 for adults and kids under 12 free. Click here to secure your seat.