The Roosters are one of the league’s proudest clubs; starting as a foundation team in 1908 with the main attraction, Rugby Union convert Dally Messenger, leading the club. The Roosters have won 13 Premierships in that time. Apart from dominating the early years of the competition, they also enjoyed periods of dominance in the mid-1930s and mid-1970s and a remarkable 3 consecutive minor premierships from 2013 to 2015. Many brilliant players have played their part in those eras of dominance; many of them feature below, many more narrowly missed out.
Picking players across eras is never an exact science. An author can do all the research in the world and still never be 100% sure about the selections put forward. Sure, there are some certainties for every team of this nature, but let this not end the debate; let it start one.
The main criteria is that each player has been selected on the strength of their performances for the club in question (not representative football and not for other clubs). They may have only been at the club for a short time, but if they’ve made The Best 17 Ever, it’s because of the undeniable quality they produced during that time.
So let the debate begin!
1 Anthony Minichiello (2000-2014)
Let’s just read out the list of achievements for this man. 2 Premierships (captaining in one of them), 11 Origins, 19 games for Australia and a Golden Boot award in 2005, with 302 appearances for the Roosters and 139 tries. For a number of years ‘Mini’ was an automatic selection in representative teams because of his ability to beat a tackle and incredible fitness.
2 Bill Mullins (1968-1978)
There was some talent in the Mullins lineage; Bill was a powerfully built former runner that scored over 100 tries for the Roosters and his son Brett was one of the most gifted fullbacks to ever play the game. Bill was a mainstay at the Roosters for a decade and was a member of the mighty Roosters teams that won back-to-back competitions in 1974 and 1975.
3 Dally Messenger (1908-1913)
Ol’ Dally M is probably the most influential figure in Rugby League history for his part in the establishment of the sport as a break-away from Rugby Union. He was such a dominant figure in Rugby Union that his defection drew enough interest to sustain the League into the future.Aside from this, he’s considered one of the greatest centres to play the game, with his stout defence and hard-running style; not even mentioning his freakish goal kicking.
4 Dave Brown (1930-1941)
Dave Brown and Dally Messenger; that centre-pairing is the envy of every other club’s greatest ever lineups. Brown was a prodigious try-scorer who was so great he became known as ‘The Bradman of League’; higher praise is not possible for an Australian during the 1930s. Brown was a key member of the great Roosters side that lost just one game in 3 seasons from 1935 to 1937.
5 Kerry Boustead (1979-1982)
Boustead’s signing was such a huge deal it became the catalyst for State of Origin, so upset were the Maroons that the Blues would inherit one of their brightest young stars for the interstate matches. Blessed with lightning feet and a brilliant tackling technique, the diminutive Boustead is one of the game’s greatest wingers.
6 Brad Fittler (1996-2004)
A former high school prodigy from Penrith, Fittler had already been named the Dally M Centre of the year twice and Lock of the year once before being signed by the Roosters. He would then be the Five-eighth of the year three times with the Roosters, including captaining them to a Premiership in 2002 and winning the Golden Boot award in 2000. One of the greatest players ever.
7 Kevin Hastings (1976-1987)
While his son is doing his best to sully the family name, there is little doubt that Kevin ‘Horrie’ Hastings is one of the finest halfbacks to never play for Australia, forever stuck behind the likes of Mortimer and Sterling. Hastings was the Dally M Halfback of the year for three consecutive seasons from 1980 to 1982, yet was still omitted from the 1982 Invincibles squad.
8 Adrian Morley (2001-2006)
The Madman from Manchester was an integral piece of the puzzle that delivered a premiership to the club in 2002. Morley played 30 Tests for Great Britain and during his time with the Roosters was known as one of the toughest and most intimidating players in the league.
9 Sandy Pearce (1908-1921)
Pearce was a founding member of the Roosters club and the first great Hooker the sport saw. He was the first player to achieve 150 career games and was considered so great he was named the Hooker in the NSW Team of the Century in 2007. That’s good enough for us!
10 Ray Stehr (1929-1946)
Ray Stehr was as uncompromising as he was durable, which is a borderline miracle when you consider that he spent much of his youth in plaster after a blood clot near his spine. Stehr was a child prodigy, playing a first grade trial at 15, before becoming one of the greatest props to lace on a boot.
11 Arthur Beetson - Captain (1971-1978)
Beetson could be named as prop or second rower, but we’ve chosen to put him in the back row for this team on the grounds that he played there as captain for the Roosters in their back-to-back premiership wins in ’74 and ’75. He’s one of the greatest forwards ever.
12 Joe Pearce (1929-1942)
When Joe Pearce represented Australia, he and his father (Sandy–see above) became the first father-son pairing to play for the Kangaroos. Pearce was a big and strong back rower with impressive skill who won multiple Premierships with the Roosters in the 1930s and 1940s.
13 Ron Coote (1972-1978)
Coote was already an established international forward when he was recruited from the Rabbitohs when the Roosters were trying to buy a premiership (for a change!). Coote was a rangy Lock with amazing ability in defence, particularly cover defence. Coote was named in the NSW and Australian Teams of the Century in 2007, only missing out on his Lock position because of John Raper, arguably the greatest player ever.
14 Craig Wing (2000-2007)
Craig Wing played much of his Roosters career at halfback, but during the NRL-era it is difficult to remember a more impactful utility player to bring off the bench in representative games. He’d be a perfect fit for this side.
15 Hugh McGahan (1985-1991)
Hugh McGahan is one of the Roosters’ greatest ever forwards, winning the Golden Boot award during his time there in 1987 and representing New Zealand in 32 Tests. ‘Paddles’ was as tough as any forward in the game, but he had incredible attacking skills (he once scored 6 tries in a game against Papua New Guinea).
16 Luke Ricketson (1991-2005)
Ricketson was a one-club workhorse and the first Rooster to play 300 games for the club. After years of controlling the middle of the field in defence and being annoyingly good-looking through the whole process, Ricketson was rewarded with some representative jerseys towards the end of his career.
17 Craig Fitzgibbon (2000-2009)
Fitzgibbon was impossibly hard-working in the forwards while also being an excellent goalkicker. Fitzgibbon played in 5 Grand Finals in his career, winning 1 in 2002. He was also the Clive Churchill medallist that year. Perhaps he should have been man of the match in all those other finals, then his team would’ve won! On second thought; Fitzgibbon was exactly the type of player that would have died trying to be the best player on the field every time he played.
And that’s the team, not too bad, huh? How would they go against other teams named in this series? Do the mighty Roosters have what it takes to beat the rest? And who did we miss? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for the Best 17 Ever for all the other clubs.
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