Tom Trbojevic of Manly Sea Eagles beats Nathan Cleary, Cody Walker

James Tedesco, pictured with this year’s Dally M Captain of the Year trophy, had headed into the season having already won a Dally M Medal, a Rugby League Players Association Players’ Champion award, two NRL premierships, two State of Origin shields and four Test matches for Australia and Italy. But the mission awaiting him would present possibly the greatest challenge of his career. The concussion-forced, mid-season retirements of co-captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend left the Roosters’ captaincy reins with Tedesco. And not only was the champion fullback blooded as the glamour club’s skipper during a season spent away from home, in a Queensland hub, he was forced to lead a squad ravaged by injury and retirement. Cordner, Friend, Brett Morris, Luke Keary, Lindsay Collins, Joseph Manu, Drew Hutchison and Joseph Suaalii were among the glut of Roosters wiped out for either some or all of the season for various reasons. Coach Trent Robinson wasn’t even able to name a squad of 21 for the Roosters’ clash with arch-rivals the Rabbitohs in Round 24. Ben Marschke, Brad Abbey and Freddy Lussick were among the members of the extended Roosters squad hauled in from the wilderness to make up the numbers throughout the season. But Tedesco’s individual performance and new-found leadership qualities drove the Roosters as they defied the odds, leaving the rugby league world in admiration of their ‘next man up’ mentality. The Roosters finished fifth and pipped the Titans in their elimination final clash, before bowing out in a semi-final match against the Sea Eagles. The full-time siren in that loss to Manly brought a thoroughly deserved break Tedesco’s way.

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