Dan Walsh, Staff Writer
They always return to the scene of the crime.
So the cheesy '80s detective spiel goes, and this Friday Jared Waerea-Hargreaves rolls back into Brookvale Oval, having last left his former stomping ground as public enemy number one just over a year ago.
In Round 9 last season the Roosters enforcer was marched by referee Matt Cecchin to a chorus of vitriol from the Manly faithful for whacking Sea Eagles prop George Rose "right on the button" in the 69th minute. The Tricolours went on to close out a 16-4 win that announced them as genuine premiership contenders, despite being reduced to 12 men for the remainder of what was by all accounts a torrid affair.
Waerea-Hargreaves found himself on the receiving end of a five-match ban for the high shot, and the Kiwi front-rower admits he recalls that punishment – as well as the one-week suspension he copped for elbowing Souths' Chris McQueen that ruled him out of the Roosters first finals match of last year – whenever he needs reminding of the fine line he treads with his aggressive approach on the field.
"Having that conversation with Robbo [coach Trent Robinson] early on in the off-season, [we] talked about that fine line, and trying to be a leader for most of the season is what I am trying to do," says Waerea-Hargreaves.
"This time last year at Brookie, I really did realise that I let my team down and it meant I missed out on a few weeks of footy, more than a few actually.
"It's that fine line where you don't like to cross it, because if you do you pay the price.
"You learn from those mistakes, as it hurt to sit on the sideline and watch the boys run around and perform like that it's pretty hard to do so.
"I don't want to be in that same sort of position again."
Rose, the man who felt the full force of Waerea-Hargreaves' 121-kilo frame that night at Brookvale, may have moved on from the incident having made a new home down at the Storm, but it's safe to say there will be plenty on the Northern Beaches gearing up to give it to the big Rooster in his first return to the ground where he started his career back in 2009.
Despite being a favourite target for opposition fans, and being accused by the Knights of intentionally leading with his elbow in their Round 14 clash with the Roosters, Waerea-Hargreaves says the public perception of his confrontational style has never made him think twice about the way he plays the game.
"It's the style of footy that I play – it's either a love or a hate thing for me," he said.
"I'm just trying to do my part for the team and go out there and do what's best for the team.
"I'm enjoying it and I've just got to continue leading from the front."