The Roosters are crowing after vanquishing the Storm in the Grand Final and they have been installed as early favourites to defend their crown next season. Cooper Cronk fought through the pain barrier and Luke Keary delivered the performance of his life to lead the Chooks to a convincing 21-6 victory over the 2017 champions on Sunday. It was stirring stuff, as Cronk usurped former teammates and Big Three mates Cameron Smith and Billy Slater. Already the bookmakers are looking ahead to next season and Sydney look to be in pole position. If you check out a review of the best betting sites, you will see that the Roosters are the $4.50 favourites to win the 2019 Grand Final. That leaves them comfortably ahead of Souths, Brisbane and Melboune at $7 each, while the Panthers are $9, the Sharks are $11 and the Cowboys and Dragons are both $14. Sydney will retain an extremely strong side next season, and they look like the team to beat once again.
Boyd Cordner silenced any doubters about his captaincy and he remained dangerous throughout the campaign. James Tedesco will still be going strong and Cronk can continue to excel in the twilight of his career. Then there are the new heroes that emerged this season. Latrell Mitchell was immense, and he has overtaken Will Chambers to become the best centre in the game. Blake Ferguson provided several crucial tries, and he will be sorely missed, but you can expect to see a stellar replacement brought in. Jared Waera-Hargreaves has led from the front all season, with several physically dominant performances. Daniel Tupou goes from strength to strength, while Joseph Manu has great potential.
And what to say about Keary. The legendary Cronk was essentially playing one-handed, with a broken scapula, acting more as an on-field coach than a player, so Keary stepped up to do both jobs in style. The former Rabbitoh was utterly immense, taking 71 touches of the ball compared to Cronk’s 18. He played a crucial role in both tries and he deservedly walked off with the Clive Churchill Medal for his magnificent performance at ANZ Stadium, even booting the match-sealing field goal. The 26-year-old already has two premiership rings, and he will be hungry for more success. If he can deliver more performances like that, Sydney could be terrifying with a fit again Cronk operating in tandem. Cronk is now 34, but he has not given any indication that he plans to retire. He is an extremely influential presence in this team and the Sydney hierarchy will be keen to keep hold of him as they bid for further success. “Any other player you would pull him off,” said Roosters legend Brad Fittler. “But he is there for his voice and his brain and his larynx will be sorer than his shoulder after the game.” Cronk roared his teammates on and whenever he was involved in the Grand Final he was golden.
However, no team has successfully defended the premiership in the NRL era, with Brisbane the last team to win back-to-back titles in the 1990s. Competition will be fierce once again next year and many punters expect Melbourne to rally. Slater will be gone, but Smith is playing on and they have several exciting youngsters coming through. The Storm are currently attracting the most action from punters, but many teams will be in the mix for glory. We are sure to see plenty of high-profile transfers between now and the start of the 2019 campaign, and the Roosters will have a tough job in trying to defend their crown.