By their own admission the Sydney Roosters missed a big chance for back-to-back NRL titles in 2014.

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This season the opportunity they’ve given previously-troubled Blake Ferguson to return to rugby league could make or break their premiership chances.

The Roosters’ 2014 campaign ended in a convincing 32-22 preliminary final defeat by eventual premiers South Sydney, after the tricolours won a second successive minor premiership.

Coach Trent Robinson believes it was fatigue that buried the Roosters’ chances.

They stumbled against Penrith and North Queensland in the finals before falling to a Rabbitohs outfit who they couldn’t match for power.

The exits of skipper Anthony Minichiello (retired) and Sonny Bill Williams (rugby) leave a considerable void at the Roosters, after a season Robinson describes as a “lost opportunity”.

However that void is one that Ferguson’s undoubted talent could go a long way to filling.

The former Cronulla and Canberra centre enjoyed a breakthrough performance in his State of Origin debut in 2013, starring in NSW’s 14-6 Game I win, before going off the rails.

Now, 22 months later, he returns from his self-inflicted exile, and shapes as the key figure in the Roosters’ 2015 premiership tilt.

Robinson is reluctant to single out Ferguson in a side that, on paper, again looks to be the one to beat in 2014.

With further improvement likely from newly installed co-captains Mitchell Pearce and Jake Friend; established youngsters Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Daniel Tupou and Aidan Guerra and up and coming rookies Dylan Napa, Jackson Hastings and Kane Evans – it all adds up to a talent-laden side.

“There are some big losses but we have a group we feel has developed well,” Robinson said.

“Some guys moving into that mid to late 20 (age) group that now understand their footy a bit more.

“We have some youth coming through as well that debuted last year.”

Despite the loss of the highly influential Minichiello and Williams, Robinson believes the club has developed a culture that will continue to thrive.

“Over the past couple of years, we have set up this club, we know where we are at, but we need to re-establish that,” he said.

“There’s no resting on what we have done. We need to get our fundamentals right.

“We have built a culture here that we are proud of.”

“We know who we are and we know our style of footy.”

Fullback is key for the Roosters, with Tuivasa-Sheck set to get first shot at filling Minichiello’s No.1 jersey.

Ferguson, who could shift to fullback if Tuivasa-Sheck struggles, will start the season at right centre, with Shaun Kenny-Dowall shuffled to the wing.

Friend will miss up to the first 10 weeks of the season, with recruit Matt McIlwrick set to share the hooking duties with Hastings early on before the Queenslander’s return.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS

Premierships: 13 – 1911, 1912, 1913, 1923, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1945, 1974, 1975, 2002, 2013

Finishes over the past three seasons: 2014 – preliminary final, 2013 – Premiers, 2012 – 13th

Coach: Trent Robinson

Captains: Mitchell Pearce and Jake Friend

Gains: Blake Ferguson, Martin Kennedy (Broncos), Willie Manu (St Helens RLFC), Matt McIlwrick (Raiders), Abraham Papalii (Warriors), Lagi Setu (Raiders)

Losses: Remi Casty (Catalan Dragons), Saulala Houma (Sharks), Heath L’Estrange (Dragons), Anthony Minichiello (retired), Frank-Paul Nu’uausala (Raiders), Sonny Bill Williams (NZ rugby union)

Strength: A balanced, battle-hardened team, that still has youth on its side. The likes of Mitchell Pearce, Jake Friend, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Aidan Guerra and Michael Jennings should be at the peak of their powers, with youngsters like Dylan Napa and Jackson Hastings coming through.

Weakness: Fullback. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is largely untested at the back as he steps into the huge shoes of Anthony Minichiello.

Money man: Blake Ferguson. If he can return to his block-busting best of two years ago, and it may take some time, the Roosters will be right in the premiership mix.

One to watch: Jake Friend. Will start the season late due to a shoulder injury, but that could prove to be a bonus in the back end of the season for one of the game’s premier No.9s.

Best team: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Michael Jennings, Blake Ferguson, Daniel Tupou, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Boyd Cordner, Mitchell Aubusson, Aidan Guerra. Interchange: Dylan Napa, Isaac Liu, Kane Evans, Jackson Hastings.

Predicted finish: 1st

Betting: $6