The Sydney Roosters is a professional rugby league club based in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia. The club competes in the National Rugby League and is one of the most successful clubs in Australian rugby league, having won twelve New South Wales Rugby League and National Rugby League titles, and several other competitions. Only the South Sydney Rabbitohs (20 premierships) and the St George Dragons (15 Premierships) have won more premiership titles. The club holds the longest match winning streak (19 matches), the record winning margin in a grand final (38 points, winning 38-0 - the equivalent of 46-0 using the current scoring regime) and the second biggest margin of victory (80 points, winning 87–7) in Australian rugby league history.
The club was founded in 1908 in Paddington, Sydney, under the name "Eastern Suburbs"; in 1995 the name was changed to the "Sydney City Roosters", and in 2000 to simply the "Sydney Roosters". The Bondi Junction and Moore Park based Roosters have a long-standing and fierce rivalry with other Sydney-based clubs, including the South Sydney Rabbitohs, based in neighbouring Redfern, a fellow foundation club in the National Rugby League. The Sydney Roosters RLFC is the only club to have played in each and every season at the elite level.
Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club was formed on 24 January 1908 after it was decided that the area would enter a team in the newly formed New South Wales Rugby League. Eastern Suburbs were unofficially nicknamed the "Tricolours" due to the club's red, white and blue playing strip. The club won its first match defeating Newtown 32–16 at Wentworth Oval on 20 April 1908. Between 1911 and 1913, Eastern Suburbs became the first club to win three consecutive premierships; the lineups during this feat included league greats such as Dally Messenger, Harry "Jersey" Flegg and Sandy Pearce. However, the club missed out on winning the premiership for the next nine seasons.
From 1926 to 1942, the club missed the finals just three times, it won the premiership four times, and won the minor premiership seven times. During this period, Dave Brown set several point-scoring records that remain unbroken. In 1935, the team lost just one game, and set the highest winning margin in the club's history, an 87–7 (106–8 in modern scoring) victory over Canterbury. In 1936, the club became one of only five teams in premiership history to remain undefeated for an entire season, a feat they repeated the following season, becoming the only team so far to remain unbeaten two seasons in a row.
Despite claiming the premiership in 1945, Eastern Suburbs failed to make the finals for the following seven seasons. A runners-up finish in 1960 was the closest the club came to claiming the premiership in this era. It played in the Grand Final that year, going down to the famous record-beating St George club. In 1966, the club was winless for the first time in its history; it was also the last instance in which the Roosters won the wooden spoon. In 1967 the club underwent something of a renaissance, appointing Jack Gibson as coach, and the club introduced a new logo to appear on all playing jerseys; the mantra "Easts to Win" was featured on the crest depicting the club's new emblem, the rooster.
From 1972 to 1982, the Roosters made the finals eight times, won four minor premierships, and played in four Grand Finals, winning two of them in succession. One of the coaches of the team during this period was now known as "Super Coach" Jack Gibson, who took charge in 1974. The Roosters teams of 1974 and 1975 are considered two of the greatest club sides in history; the lineups included Mark Harris, John Brass, Bill Mullins, Russell Fairfax, Johnny Mayes, John Peard, Ron Coote, Ian Schubert and captain Arthur Beetson. During this period, the team won 39 of 44 matches, both minor premierships, both Grand Finals and set a premiership record nineteen-game winning streak. The 1975 winning Grand Final scoreline of 38–0 against the St George Dragons remained the largest margin in a First Grade Grand Final untill the 2008 season when Manly beat Melboune 40 - 0.
During the mid 1980s to early 1990s, the Roosters reached the semi-finals only once in a period known to critics as the "Transit Lounge" era. Despite this, the club went close to winning the premiership in 1987 under coach and favourite son, Arthur Beetson, going down to eventual winner Manly in a bruising Preliminary Final. Despite the indifferent form for most of this period, average home crowd attendances grew from 3,389 in 1984 to 17,060 in 1996, when the side reached its first finals series in over a decade. This included a club record Sydney Football Stadium attendance of 37,981 on 22 July 1996.
With the Super League war building up in the mid 1990s, the Roosters recruited high profile coach Phil Gould and star five-eighth Brad Fittler, both from the Penrith Panthers, instantly sending the Roosters back up to the top end of the premiership ladder. Fittler's presence proved invaluable; during his reign the Roosters competed in four Grand Finals in five years. In 2002, the club finally captured their 12th premiership (and their first in 27 years) after defeating minor premiers the New Zealand Warriors 30–8 in the Grand Final. Led under coach Ricky Stuart, the team recovered from a devastating injury toll early in the season totaling seventeen players to come back and place fourth on the regular season ladder.
In the 2003 Grand Final against the Penrith Panthers, the Roosters lost in a famous game where Roosters winger Todd Byrne was chased down and tackled into touch by Penrith lock forward Scott Sattler having made a clear break down the sideline midway through the second half. This chance to break the 6–6 deadlock was the decisive moment of the match; Penrith won 18–6 in the Roosters' largest losing margin of the year. Their latest grand final appearance was in 2004, when they were defeated by the Bulldogs 16–13 having led 13–6 at halftime. The match was captain Brad Fittler's last for the team.
The Sydney Roosters played their 100th season of first grade in 2007, becoming the first club to do so since the competition's inception in 1908. The club appointed Chris Anderson as coach for 2007 and 2008 following two relatively unsuccessful years under coach Ricky Stuart in charge. On 9 July 2007, Chris Anderson stepped down from his position as the club's head coach after a 56–0 loss to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Brad Fittler assumed the post of caretaker coach for the remainder of the 2007 season, before being signed on at the end of the year as the team's permanent coach.
Like other clubs, Eastern Suburbs did not traditionally sport a crest on their jerseys in the first half of the 20th century. Other clubs occasionally sported simple designs on their strip; however, this was not seen consistently on all jerseys until the 1950s and 1960s. In 1967, the club introduced the first logo, displaying the motto "Easts to Win", following a winless season. The crest also incorporated a rooster in the design; one source suggested that this choice of mascot followed after the Roosters changed their jersey design to suit the French team's jersey. Given that the French team's mascot was affectionately known to supporters as "le coq", the rooster, connections have been made as to the choosing of a rooster for Eastern Suburbs' mascot.
In 1978, the motto was replaced with the team's name, "Eastern Suburbs". This design was kept until 1994 when the club changed its playing name to the "Sydney City Roosters" for the start of the 1995 season to expand the club's widening fan base. This also prompted a change in logo design to an image of a rooster against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In 2000, the club changed its name to the "Sydney Roosters" and introduced a new logo.
Although marketing names have changed, the Roosters are still registered with the National Rugby League competition as the Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club.
Red, white and blue have been the colours of every jersey design in the club's history; however, the jersey design has undergone several alterations. The jersey worn in the first premiership season consisted of several hoops, with red stripes dominating over consecutive smaller white and blue stripes. Although the width and the order of these stripes have changed, the basic design has always been maintained.
During World War II, the design of the jersey was modified because the dye used to colour jerseys was needed for the war effort. This saw Eastern Suburbs playing in different colours and an altered design. Instead of using the traditional hoops, the side used a sky blue-based jersey and a red and white V-strip around the collar. This is the only noted time in the club's history where the traditional deep blue, red and white combination was absent from the jersey. After the war, the V-strip design was reverted back to the original blue that had been present in the original jerseys, and the single red and white stripes around the shirt's chest were incorporated with a single white stripe surrounded by a red stripe on either side. This jersey appeared in the 1950s, and remains the team's base design.
Facing design clashes with other teams in the 1990s, the club adopted a jersey with a similar design to what became known as the "away jersey", replacing the blue backing with white, and the outer red stripe with blue. As the club entered the new century, the team began to wear a "foundation jersey". Although the design differs slightly from the jersey worn in the inaugural 1908 season, it did feature the traditional horizontal striped-design. This jersey is normally worn when the Sydney Roosters face traditional rivals, such as the South Sydney Rabbitohs, or on special occasions like Anzac Day when the team faces the St George Illawarra Dragons, the product of a team partly formed by the St. George Dragons.
In October 2006, the club announced that a slightly modified version of the original playing jersey from the 1908 jersey would be worn on several occasions in 2007 to honour the club's 100th season in top-grade professional rugby league.
Early in Eastern Suburbs' history, "home games" were often played at neutral venues in lieu of team stadiums. However, most sources suggest that the Royal Agricultural Ground was often used as a home venue between 1908 and 1910, before the club hosted matches at the Sydney Sports Ground from 1911 onwards. It was here that the team played all of their homes games up until 1986, when the ground was demolished with the Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2 to make way for Sydney's main rectangular field, the Sydney Football Stadium. In 1987, games were moved away to the Newtown Jets' home ground, Henson Park temporarily to await the completion of the Sydney Football Stadium. The team capitalised on this move, finishing second in the regular season. It was the also the only time between 1983 and 1995 that the side reached the finals.
In 1988, the side moved to the newly created Sydney Football Stadium, opening the season with a 24–14 defeat at the hands of the Dragons in front of 19,295 on 4 March 1988. The club shared the ground with the South Sydney Rabbitohs between 1988 and 1999, and again between 2002 and 2005 after the Rabbitohs were reinstated into the competition. The St. George Illawarra Dragons also play several home matches at the stadium, with games allocated to the St. George Dragons half of the merger played at the Sydney Football Stadium between 2000 and 2002 as well. From 2006 onwards, the Roosters are the sole National Rugby League club to play games at the Sydney Football Stadium and its previous incarnations.
The ground is used by the National Rugby League to host several finals matches at the end of the year, including one of the Preliminary Finals. One benefit to the Roosters is that, although not officially allocated the ground as hosts, the team has attracted a stronger support than interstate teams such as the Brisbane Broncos. Of the four Grand Finals that the Sydney Roosters made between 2000 and 2004, three of them were made after winning their respective Preliminary Finals out of the Sydney Football Stadium.
The Sydney Roosters have a large support base across Australia in South East Queensland, Canberra and Newcastle, and its traditional location in Sydney. Moreover, the Sydney Roosters have two popular internet forums for supporters: "The Wall", the official message board in operation since 1999; and the unofficial "The People's Wall".
In 2004, the club tallied the second highest home crowd attendance (behind the Brisbane Broncos) with an average attendance of 18,514 at the Sydney Football Stadium, compared with an average attendance of 3,389 in 1984. However, a drop of 25.2% in crowd figures from 2005 to 2006 led the news agency Australian Associated Press to state "crowd figures suggest many Sydney Roosters fans have been fair-weather friends. Nevertheless, despite finishing second to last in 2006, the Roosters attracted the ninth highest home crowd average.
At the Sydney Football Stadium, the official supporter base is divided into three prominent sections. The "Chook Pen", a designated area in Bay 36, is considered to be the location where the most passionate fans sit during matches. The "Chookpen" has several banners and flags. Members of the Chookpen consider the chookpen to be a supporters group and they sometimes attend away games. Located in the membership stands are stadium members who watch the game from the top tier of the stadium's western side from Bays 12–14. The Kevin Hastings Stand is an alcohol-free designated area for families.
Amid declining crowd numbers in 2007, the Sydney Roosters implemented a marketing campaign designed to recruit members to the football club. As of 2008, the Roosters have over 6,000 members.
After the 2004 Grand Final the rivalry between both teams settled down. However since 2006, the rivalry has once again re-ignited with players and officials from both clubs trading blows against each other. The Roosters in this time have acquired four of the Bulldogs first grade players; Braith Anasta (2006), Nate Myles (2007), Mark O'Meley (2008) and Willie Mason (2008). All four have played representative rugby league and all except Nate Myles were apart of the 2004 Bulldogs premiership winning team.
In leading up to their first game against each other in the 2008 season, the Bulldogs released a t-shirt with the label 'Bred not bought' with a cartoon depicting a Bulldogs attacking a Rooster. The t-shirt which was considered a taunt at the Roosters recruiting techniques and was subject to media scrutiny and led to Roosters great and former recruitment manager Arthur Beetson criticising the release of the t-shirt and also questioning the merits of the Bulldogs recruitment policies. The match itself, played in round 4 of the 2008 NRL season failed to live up to the hype that much of the media had placed on it. The Roosters were able to win comfortably 40-12, with former Bulldog Willie Mason featuring strongly scoring two tries.
The Roosters won the 1975 Grand Final by the biggest winning margin ever - 38-0 (8 tries, 7 goals) against St George (even though the scoreline was only 5-0 at halftime).
The two teams met in the last daytime Grand Final way back in 2000 with the Broncos winning 14-6. Since 2001, the two teams have clashed on Good Friday, however the Roosters have only won 2 from 8 clashes which are always held at the Sydney Football Stadium. The Roosters avenged their 2000 Grand Final loss by defeating the Broncos 16-12 in the preliminary final in 2002, and then went on to win the title.
In 2003 the Roosters were the Broncos' only Suncorp Stadium victims; despite leading 8-4 at halftime they lost 10-8. However they got one back in 2005, winning 17-10. That was the Roosters' first win at the old ground since 1991 and have not played there since.
Team captain Craig Fitzgibbon holds the club record for the most points, tallying 1090 points over his 162 matches played. Fitzgibbon also claimed the all-time point scoring record in the competition for a forward in the later rounds of 2006. Dave Brown's tally of 45 points in a single match set against Canterbury in 1935 still remains a competition record more than 70 years on. Had this tally been accounted for in modern points allocation (4 points for a try rather than 3), the points would have stood at a half century. Ivan Cleary scored 284 points on his own in 1998, setting an all-time points scoring record in a season at the time. This record has since been broken.
Bill Mullins, father of Brett Mullins who won a premiership with the side in 2002, scored 104 tries in his 11-year career with Eastern Suburbs between 1968 and 1978. Over his 190 matches, this tally accounts for a try scored more often than every second game. In 1935, Rod O'Loan scored 7 tries in a single match against Sydney University, and Dave Brown's 38 tries scored in 15 games are both a club and competition record,
In 1975, the Eastern Suburbs Roosters set an unparalleled 19-match winning streak on their way to their 11th premiership. The same match in which Dave Brown scored 45 points against Canterbury in 1935 remains the highest victory margin and score for the club, the 87–7 scoreline separated by 80 points. The record is just second behind St. George's record of 85 points set against the same side a week earlier in which they won 91–6.
The club's record attendance for a regular season home game at the Sydney Football Stadium stands at 37,981 for a match against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in 1996. The Grand Final four years later between the Sydney Roosters and the Brisbane Broncos attracted 94,277 spectators to the Olympic Stadium, and will remain the highest attendance for a game in which the club participates in the absence of a larger stadium.
The table below highlights the Sydney Roosters' record home attendances for regular premiership matches (1908 - 2008) at each home venue.
|Ground||Versus||Official Attendance|| Date |
|Sydney Cricket Ground||Manly-Warringah||50,130||4 May 1974|
|Sydney Football Stadium||Manly-Warringah||37,981||22 July 1996|
|Sydney Sports Ground||North Sydney||26,894||20 April 1946|
|Royal Agricultural Showground||Glebe||22,000||25 May 1912|
|WACA Ground, Perth ^||Canberra||20,436||7 May 1993|
|Henson Park||South Sydney||17,562||16 August 1987|
|Central Coast Stadium||Newcastle||18,124||6 August 2006|
^ Venue used for promotional purposes
The Roosters' highest attendances at venues used for finals fixtures are listed below (1908 - 2008).
|Ground||Versus||Official Attendance|| Date |
|Stadium Australia||Brisbane||94,277||27 August 2000|
|Sydney Cricket Ground||St George||63,047||20 September 1975|
|Sydney Football Stadium||Canterbury-Bankstown||41,123||27 September 2003|
|QE2 Stadium||Brisbane||28,374||19 September 1998|
|Sydney Sports Ground||South Sydney||27,104||12 September 1931|
|Newcastle International Sports Centre||Newcastle||26,482||5 September 1998|
|Mt Smart Stadium||Auckland||25,585||19 September 2008|
|Royal Agricultural Showground||South Sydney||25,000||15 September 1928|
|Olympic Park, Melbourne||Melbourne||18,247||30 August 1998|
|Ground||Versus||Official Attendance|| Date |
|Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland||Auckland||29,048||30 April 1995|
|QE2 Stadium, Brisbane||Brisbane||41,211||7 August 1994|
|Lang Park, Brisbane||Brisbane||35,592||26 August 2005|
|Canberra Stadium||Canberra||23,603||9 July 2000|
|Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan||Canberra||14,754||29 April 1984|
|Stadium Australia||Canterbury-Bankstown||36,526||4 April 2008|
|Belmore Sports Ground||Canterbury-Bankstown||18,129||9 May 1976|
|Sydney Showground, Homebush||Canterbury-Bankstown||15,343||19 July 2002|
|Endeavour Field||Cronulla-Sutherland||20,380||7 September 2002|
|Wentworth Park||Glebe||15,000||2 May 1914|
|Brookvale Oval||Manly-Warringah||23,005||6 June 1976|
|Newcastle International Sports Centre||Newcastle||25,315||29 August 1999|
|Willows Sports Complex, Townsville||North Queensland||22,476||30 April 2005|
|North Sydney Oval||North Sydney||16,704||19 April 1992|
|Parramatta Stadium||Parramatta||20,276||19 March 1999|
|Cumberland Oval||Parramatta||20,080||14 August 1977|
|Penrith Stadium||Penrith||22,227||27 July 2003|
|Sydney Football Stadium||South Sydney||35,316||15 March 2002|
|Redfern Oval||South Sydney||17,537||21 June 1964|
|Kogarah Jubilee Oval||St George||17,216||10 April 1977|
|Wollongong Stadium||St George-Illawarra||19,512||29 July 2005|
|Campbelltown Stadium||Wests Tigers||18,669||25 June 2004|
Prior to Chris Anderson, Ricky Stuart was the head coach of the Roosters from season 2002 until 2006. During this period, Stuart coached the Roosters to a premiership in 2002 and successive grand final appearances in 2003 and 2004. After failing to make the finals in 2005 and 2006, Stuart was released from his final year of coaching the Roosters for the 2007 season. He has since become head coach of the Cronulla Sharks from 2007 onwards. During Ricky Stuart's tenure as head coach, John Cartwright held the post of assistant coach and Phil Gould held a position as a coaching director to Stuart. Cartwright has since joined the Gold Coast Titans as head coach and Gould who retired from coaching after the 2004 State of Origin series is a media personality for the Channel Nine network and journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald.
In 2000 Graham Murray was appointed head coach of the Sydney Roosters, in his first season as coach Murray took the Roosters to their first grand final since 1980. The following season did not extract the same results, the Roosters exited the finals in the first week. Murray was released as coach having earlier in the year signed a deal to coach beyond the 2001 season.
Prior to Murray's appointment, Phil Gould was the coach of the Roosters from 1995 to 1999. Gould is regarded by many as one of the key figures responsible for the Roosters return to success after dismal appearances in the majority of the 1980's and early 90's. During Gould's reign at the club, he was able to steer the Roosters to consistent finals appearances and helped develop representative careers for many players at the club. He resigned as coach at the end of 1999 following the Roosters finals exit after being defeated by the Dragons in the semi-final.
The Rooster's recently resigned promising juniors Anthony Cherrington, Riley Brown, James Aubusson and Mitchell Pearce, setting them up with a strong junior base.
Recently, under a new recruitment program, the Rooster's Toyota Cup squad was boosted by the signings of Michael Rice, Alex Klimt, Charlie Macdonald, George Williams and Jack Perry from the Eastside Rugby League Competition.
In 2007 the Sydney Roosters announced "The Centurions", a team consisting of the greatest players to have played 100 games or more for the club between 1908 and 2007. The team was selected by Ray Chesterton, Ian Heads, David Middleton and Alan Clarkson and was unveiled at the 100 years season launch at the Hordern Pavilion on 10 March 2007.