2013 Season Review: SYDNEY ROOSTERS

Sydney Roosters logoBy STEVE MASCORD
HE made it sound so easy that anyone could do it: sign a few superstars, treat everyone equally and: abracadabra, a premiership at first attempt.
But beneath the professed credo of Sydney Roosters’ rookie coach Trent Robinson were two pillars which those in the inner-sanctum described as every bit as important as the worth ethic he espoused at post-match press conferences all year.
They were: simplicity and warmth.
“His structure is very simple,” chief executive Brian Canavan tells RLW in the hubbub of the winning dressingroom on grand final day.
“If it needs to be adapted, yes. But that allows everyone to work comfortably within that structure.
“That’s what I found about him – no-one’s confused, very simple delivery and it allows everyone to express themselves.”
The warmth is something that comes naturally for Robinson. While playing under new Melbourne Storm assistant Justin Morgan at Toulouse, he made the effort to learn French and immersed himself in local culture, something many Australian imports were not willing to do.
Empathy is a very under-rated aspect of coaching. Back in Sydney, that approach translated itself to including everyone in the club, from the ballboys to Sonny Bill Williams, in what he was trying to do.
“There’re so many people who put a lot of work into our club,” Robinson explained.
“People try to put it down to a player or two and coaches.
“But there were a lot of people who worked so hard over the last few years to get it to this point, where we were right this year. A lot of us have come in and we’ve benefited from that.”
The Roosters face to the outside world changed; they seemed a team with no secrets – open, honest and available. That philosophy was most sorely tested two weeks from the finish line when a test results registering high levels of HGH were found on a crime figure’s phone.
Robinson was at a crossroads: should he shut the media out, show his anger at the reports and pull down the shutters or continue on the road that he had set out on in February.
He chose the latter – and it may have delivered a premiership.
“We’ve got nothing to hide in everything we do and that’s how we’ve dealt with everything this year,” says Robinson. “We’re clear about our footy and we know who we are as a club and as a team.
“We’re comfortable when we talk about that … and last week was really hard.
“We decided to talk about it rather than shut it down. And we probably need to talk about it more … but there’s no issue from us.
“I think that’s a good policy. Sometimes … there is anger there.”
The elephant in the room in discussing what Robinson and his assistants Jason Taylor and Paul Green did this year is why they had to do it.
It’s one thing to say that various philosophies and measures had to be put in place but not the done thing to address what it was like before.
Robinson did a thorough apprenticeship under veteran Brian Smith but there would have been no need to put the highest paid player on the same level as the lowest, and make sure they work hard, if there was no danger of the opposite occurring.
“People thought the star factor would take over our club,” Robinson told the assembled media on Sunday night.
Robinson played the ultimate psychological card trick on his side: we’ve got the players to win the competition but let’s behave all year as if we don’t.
He explained: “We know we’re a club that’s seen as quite a wealthy club, seen as the high fliers, but we’re built on a real hard-working foundation. That was our team. We were really clear on who we were at the Roosters.
“We knew we had some good players but we wanted to work hard for each other, as our club has.
“We knew this group of players was ready to win a comp but we didn’t know if we coaches were.”
Consider it a question now conclusively answered. Robinson’s own confidence was probably the final plank in building the Roosters’ 13th premiership.
When asked before one finals series game what the big question in his mind regarding the contest was, he replied that he was not wondering about anything at all.
If the events of last week did not surprise the coach, then they did others in the club.
“It does surprise me,” said Canavan. “To come from where we’ve been the last couple of years and end up club champions, minor premiers and now the premiers is quite an extraordinary run.
“I’d like to know why …. And I’ll write it down.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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