'Roosters must lift'

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Representative stars Michael Jennings and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves are adamant the Sydney Roosters cannot defend their title playing the same football they did last year.

Fresh from their Word Club Challenge triumph against Wigan on Saturday night, two of the Roosters' biggest names have highlighted a need for their side to take their game to another level. No team has won back-to-back premierships in an unified competition since the Brisbane Broncos 1992 and 1993.

Salary cap restraints have made the assignment a far more difficult exercise in recent years, however the Roosters haven't been forced to off-load many players and will go into 2014 with almost identical squad to last year. "We have to step our game up," Waerea-Hargreaves said. "Doing what we did last year won't be enough. We have to tweak things here and there from last year so we don't become predictable. We definitely have to step our game up another level."

The Roosters came into last season with a new coach in Trent Robinson, a new five-eighth in James Maloney, a new centre in Jennings and a new back-rower in Sonny Bill Williams. Despite the large turnover of players and coaching staff, the Roosters defied the odds to become the NRL's best attacking and defensive team on their way to winning the minor premiership, premiership and now World Club Challenge.

In an ominous sign for opposition teams, Waerea-Hargreaves insists the Roosters are in a superior position to what they were leading into the season last year. "We started the year pretty slowly last year through the trials and the early part of the season," he said. "But we've had all that experience from last year and we're pretty much the same side. We've got a lot more confidence and we all know how each other play, which really helps with combinations, especially when other teams are still trying to get it right in the early part of the year."

The last time the Roosters reached the grand final in 2010 against St George Illawarra, they failed to qualify for the finals the following year, finishing 11th.

However Waerea-Hargreaves, who was part of the Roosters' grand final losing side four years ago, said the players have learned a lot from the experience.

"We're more mature than we were back then," he said.

"There were a few young players in that side, but we've played together for a few years now and we know how each other play."

While the World Cup and Nines have interrupted the pre-season, Jennings insists the Roosters have picked up where they left off last season.

"Since everyone came back from holidays, it didn't look or feel like we'd been apart for so long," he said.

"There's always room for improvement. We're already a step ahead of where we were last year. But it's going to be tougher being the premiers. We definitely have to go to another level, there's no doubt about that. We have to be better than what we were last year."

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