Mitch Cornish played a reasonable game at five-eighth for the Sydney Roosters, who edged Manly by just two points in their final NRL trial on Saturday night, but it will be Luke Keary marching back into the No.6 jersey for round one action in the Telstra Premiership against Wests Tigers.
The former South Sydney premiership-winning half was the only notable absentee from the Roosters line-up enjoying a 28-26 win over Manly as he recovers from a broken jaw suffered in training.
Cornish filled the role at Gosford’s Central Coast Stadium but Roosters coach Trent Robinson had no hesitation in flagging Keary for round one.
“I’d like to think Luke’s on track. As I said the (metal) plate helps it, accelerates,” Robinson said. “I think it’s six weeks without it but two to three weeks with. But there’s still a break behind there.
“Luke has trained well. He’s played more minutes and done more kilometres than just about anyone over the year. He’ll be ready to go.”
As for the rest of the Roosters spine – hooker Jake Friend, new halfback Cooper Cronk and new fullback James Tedesco – they spluttered a little in the opening few minutes, mainly due to Manly having most of the ball, but came to life eventually.
“I thought Jake looked really good out of No.9, he moved well. Cooper’s control was really strong, and Mitch Cornish was obviously a halfback moving into that five-eighth role. I thought he improved as the game went on,” Robinson said.
“Teddy was really strong in defensive movements. I thought our line, or where he got us to, was really strong. And then you could see his confidence growing out of late in the first half and into the second. He started to come into his game more and more and know when to turn up.”
Tedesco and left-side centre Latrell Mitchell ended up the stars of the Roosters show with two tries each, but it was Tedesco shone brightest.
It was his chip-and-chase try in the 55th minute that put the Roosters in the lead for the first time in the match. And it was the sort of classy move everyone has come to expect from the NSW Origin No.1 and former Wests Tigers custodian.
“That’s that individual bit from Teddy,” Robinson said. “People call it talent but it’s not talent. The guy works on that stuff and backs his eyes. He knew when (Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic) had left early and gone over to the left and he read the play.
“You get to understand why the guy comes up with those plays because he works on that stuff. He sees it and works hard to get into those positions.”
As for a bout of the mumps that some reports said could sweep through not just the Roosters but other NRL clubs because of the mateship between players, Robinson said it had not been any real burden the past week.
“It’s probably been overstated. We’ve had it but I think you saw how James (Tedesco) and Latrell (Mitchell) played tonight so I don’t think it was too disruptive,” he said.
As for the added expectation on his team’s shoulders due to the representative pedigree of the Cronk and Tedesco signings, Robinson was at ease with that too.
“The expectations are always there. Our expectations of ourselves are really high.”
Now all he has to fix ahead of the Tigers at ANZ Stadium on Mach 10 are his team’s starts. Manly zipped out to 16-0 after eight minutes in Gosford before the Roosters started really them in.