Sydney Roosters back-rower Ryan Matterson is desperate to prove he warrants a starting back row spot as he looks to form a new right-edge combination with star recruit Cooper Cronk.
Matterson started every game from round 14 on last season – the first seven of those at back row and most of the remainder at centre – but says this pre-season he has focused almost exclusively on a role in the pack.
Speaking to NRL.com at a Roosters pre-season media day, Matterson said he found the chance to get a run of starting games last year ”highly enjoyable”.
“It was a bit of a taste of what’s to come. I want to be a back-rower and I’m enjoying the progress here at the Roosters as a back-rower,” he said.
Having spent time in the back row and at lock in the final trial match against Manly last weekend, Matterson is also in a position to profit from Aidan Guerra’s departure to Newcastle at the end of last year.
“One less forward makes an opportunity for me and some of the other boys in the team,” he said.
”Growing up I’ve always been a starting player. I’ve told ‘Robbo’ (coach Trent Robinson) I want to be a starting player.
“Being on the bench – I don’t really like it but I have to do what’s good for the team. But my long-term goal is to be in the starting team.
“I just think, I’ve trained so hard, I want to play. Sitting back and watching the boys play, it’s frustrating because you want to be out there. My time will come.”
Matterson hoped being a part of a star-studded Roosters line-up would also boost his own representative ambitions down the track.
“Representing your state and country, obviously that’s a goal,” he said.
“I want to cement a starting spot before I can make any of those rep sides. Having such high calibre rep players around you at club level brings you a step closer to playing those big games.
“There’s about 13 international players so we’re going pretty good.”
Matterson also said he has enjoyed the chance to link up with Cronk as part of a new-look Roosters right edge.
“Because I’ve been training in the back row I’ve had a lot to do with Cooper, Joey Manu and Fergo (Blake Ferguson). As a group we’ve been having a right edge mentality,” he said.
“[Cronk] has brought clarity to the team, especially to the right edge. We’ve got a defensive structure that’s kind of new but as a team at training it’s worked. It’s still early days but the likes of Joey Manu, his defence has improved dramatically, Fergo as well. Cooper has made a big impact on my defensive movements.
“He’s really good at not engaging if he doesn’t have to. Because if you engage into a tackle then you’re taken out for the next play. So if they do hit the back runner and he holds up it’s an easy three on two… Coops is doing his job by not taking himself out of the play to help the centre.”
Despite his confidence in the progress of the team’s combinations, Matterson said fans may need to be patient in the early rounds as the team got used to those combinations in match situations.
“There’s a lot of expectations but it takes a few weeks to get combinations going. Even though you’re working on it at training, a game’s totally different,” he said.
“The [trial win over Manly] is a step towards where we want to be but we’re still not happy with it so we’re just going to keep working on that and come round one hopefully we hit the ground running.
“We bettered our performance from the Penrith game to the Manly game, there was a massive difference from one week of video. After another week, going into round one we’ll be better again.”