Exciting time ahead for new-look Roosters

IAN MCCULLOUGH
Last updated 13:55 25/02/2013
Sonny Bill Williams
Matt King/ Getty
BIG NAME SIGNING: Sonny Bill Williams will make his return to the NRL with the Sydney Roosters.

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The air of excitement around the Sydney Roosters going into the 2013 NRL season is in stark contrast to the feeling a year ago.

Little was expected in 2012 and the Roosters lived up to those lowly expectations comfortably by labouring to a 13th-place finish.

Fast forward 12 months and there's a sense of anticipation around the club not felt since Brad Fittler, Luke Ricketson, Craig Wing and co helped the Roosters to the first of three successive premiership appearances more than a decade ago.

Tired of seeing bitter rivals South Sydney taking the spotlight with a raft of big-name signings and his one-time glamour side languishing at the wrong end of the ladder, Roosters supremo Nick Politis acted.

Out went veteran coach Brian Smith and chief executive Steve Noyce. In came highly-rated young coach Trent Robinson and some of the biggest names in the game to bolster a talented, but inexperienced squad.

It's been suggested that Smith's demise was largely down to the deterioration of his relationship with NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce. But the reality is two years of the club going backwards since the 2010 grand final sealed his fate.

Politis moved for Smith's former assistant Robinson who earned plaudits in two successful years with French outfit Les Catalans in the Super League.

But that appointment was eclipsed when All Blacks superstar Sonny Bill Williams finally put pen to paper on a one-year deal.

Williams hasn't played in the NRL since his dramatic midnight flit from Canterbury to French rugby midway through the 2008 season.

Robinson believes Williams can pick up from where he left off five years ago - something other returnees like Mark Gasnier and Lote Tuqiri struggled with in their comebacks to the NRL.

"Size he hasn't lost. He is still sitting at 106-107kg so physical shape is not a problem," Robinson told AAP.

"He's also younger than some of the other guys when they returned. They were in their early 30s. He's 27.

"I am not as worried about Sonny coming back from from rugby as some."

However, Robinson has warned his players not to rely on the dynamic back-rower to win games on his own.

"I don't like to put caps on players in terms of what they can or can't do because he has exceeded expectations everywhere he's gone," he said.

"But I definitely won't be looking at him to win us games and that can't be an expectation from our team.

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"If he does his job in our system, we'll be really happy with that. Whatever comes on top of that will be a bonus.

"It's really important for all of our players to know that."

In addition to Williams, former Warriors five-eighth James Maloney has joined, along with NSW centre Michael Jennings and former Blues hardman Luke O'Donnell who returns to the NRL from Huddersfield.

O'Donnell and Williams bolster a back-row that has two of the best young forwards in the game in Boyd Cordner and Aiden Guerra and Robinson is delighted with his options in that position.

"Everyone in rugby league knew about Boyd from the age of 15," he said.

"He has a huge future at club and rep level and is only going to get better and better."

"Jenko (Jennings) is someone I've always admired, and getting him on board gives us real strength in the centres with Shaun Kenny-Dowall."

- AAP

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