“What? Me worry?”
James Maloney channelled the famous catchphrase of fictitious Mad magazine cover boy Alfred E. Neuman when quizzed about the ill-discipline which sees the Roosters maintain their status as the most penalised side in the NRL after the first round of the season.
To be fair the incumbent NSW pivot, who even looks a wee bit like the jug-eared, gap-toothed rascal of so many of our childhoods, had little reason to be worried that his side incurred the shrill of the ref’s whistle more than any other team last year – 223 times – as it did little to prevent the Roosters from sweeping all before them in 2013.
“If you call it a problem it’s a problem,” said Maloney after the Roosters gave away 12 penalties in their 28-8 loss to the Rabbitohs, the most of any side across Round 1.
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“We don’t like giving away unnecessary ones… but if we get penalised for doing the wrong thing we’ve just got to make the tackles afterwards to make sure it doesn’t affect the result.”
Coach Trent Robinson obviously has all the boys from Bondi singing from the same hymn sheet, with hooker Jake Friend also confident the best defence in the competition could withstand the added pressure that comes with giving the opposition extra chances at the Roosters line.
“Whether we give them or not we have to back our defence and back up with that defence,” said Friend.
“Obviously we don’t want to give as many penalties away but it’s not in our control.
"We can try our best to clean up our ruck but if the penalties are blown they’re going to be blown. There were a lot of penalties in the other games [last weekend] as well.”
One penalty the Roosters admitted they would feel the sting of was the suspension handed down star back-rower Sonny Bill Williams, who will miss the next three matches, including the Round 4 grand final rematch with Manly.
“It’s obviously disappointing that we won’t have him for a couple of weeks,” said Friend.
“He’s a great player and he adds a lot of spark to our team and we play off the back of him. He’s a big part of our side but we proved last year that we can play without him.”
The Roosters won all three games Williams missed during the middle of the season last year, belting the Sharks and Panthers and squeaking home against the Raiders, and prop Sam Moa said the Kiwi international was shattered when hit with the ban.
“He was devastated I think when we found out the grading he had received,” said Moa.
“He didn’t want to miss any games and he was disappointed he let the team down. But he’s a professional, he’ll be training hard and doing his best to get back.”