Why Robbo threw out Roosters’ playbook mid-season
GRAND final hero Luke Keary has revealed it took the Roosters half a season to settle on a style of attack that worked for the eventual 2018 champions.
The boys from Bondi looked electric at times as they tore Melbourne apart in a 21-6 NRL grand final rout at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
But the speed and flare with which they ambushed the Storm wasn't evident in their early-season performances.
In fact the club was heavily criticised for much of the season for a rather disjointed attack, despite adding State of Origin stars and attacking masters Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco to the spine.
Rugby league pundits were pointing the finger at Cronk and Tedesco in particular for an attacking style that couldn't click.
Now five-eighth Keary has lifted the lid on the work head coach Trent Robinson and attacking assistant Jason Taylor did to get the star-studded side on track to a title.
He says the coaching staff had to essentially throw out the playbook and start again on more than one occasion.
"We had a few sets that we ran with last year that we tried at the start of the year. Obviously we weren't attacking the way we wanted to," Keary said after starring in the Roosters' victory.
"We had James (Tedesco) come in, Cooper (Cronk) ... James is very different to (2017 fullback) Mick (Gordon) and Coops is a different player to (2017 halfback Mitchell Pearce).
"We kind of tweaked (our attack), I think we would have tweaked it honestly three or four times during the season, from probably Round 6 or 7 to probably 14 or 15.
"We worked hard, I can't explain it.
"It hasn't been handed to us this year, we've had to work so hard. I think that's what makes it so special."
Coach Robinson made mention of the attacking change in his post-game press conference.
He paid credit to his players - particularly the four stars in the spine - for adapting to the change of tactics on the run.
Neither Robinson nor Keary revealed the specifics of the game plan, or exactly what they changed.
"A lot of people don't get an insight into how a team runs ... they've been incredible," Robinson said of his troops.
"The amount that they've adapted ... we changed the game plan after eight weeks. Not one complaint, nothing, they just said righto let's get on with it."
Some of the Chooks' attack during Sunday's grand final was a pleasure to watch.
Keary's floating lofted pass to put Daniel Tupou over for a try at the start of the game was delicious.
Tedesco's fast hands handed Joseph Manu a meat pie on a platter. Then Ryan Matterson produced a wrap-around flick pass at the end of the game ... just because he could.
But the entire Roosters camp knows their 2018 premiership was built on defence.
The "Bondi Wall" held fast on Sunday night, leaking just one Storm try which came in the form of a Josh Addo-Carr intercept and 90-metre sprint.
Keary said the success this year can be credited in large to the work of Robinson and defensive assistant Craig Fitzgibbon, stretching back far beyond the pre-season.
"I've been around long enough to know premierships are built on defence," Keary said.
"The coaching staff knew that and they obviously had a direction they were going, and we just jump on board.
"We were realistic about where we were at, we knew we weren't playing great footy in patches but Robbo knew premierships are built on defence.
"We had our defence on from Round 1, and we knew in the big games that they hold up, the last three weeks it held up."