Roosters X-Factor: Anthony Minichiello

A fully fit Anthony Minichiello is a sight to behold. ‘The Count’ glides to the ball, picks it up, sprints back to the line - and if there is a half an opening he will find it.<br><br>Unfortunately for Minichiello, the Roosters and the NRL, it’s been a long time since he has been fully fit. The last time was 2005, the year he won the Golden Boot award as the game’s best player.<br><br>Footy fans may have forgotten the classic displays Minichiello produced in the early part of this decade, particularly from 2003-05 when he was the Roosters, NSW and Australian custodian.<br><br>Since then he has been afflicted by a well publicised back injury that has hampered his and, it’s fair to say, the Roosters progress.<br><br>Fear not though tri-colours faithful. Minichiello has completed a full pre-season and is confident his back problems are now over.<br><br>If they are, the news should send a shudder through the rest of the NRL who will once again have to deal with one of league’s most deadly attacking weapons and a Roosters side who grow in confidence with his presence.<br><br>“The back feels really good. I’ve had a full pre-season behind me which has given me confidence and allowed me to get my fitness levels back up to where they used to be.”<br><br>Minichiello has stated his goal is to play a full season for the Roosters in 2009 and as one of the finest attacking players in the competition his constant presence will be a major factor in their premiership aspirations.<br><br>His likely combination with Mitchell Pearce and Braith Anasta is likely to be a potent one. Lately Minichiello has been the missing link in the partnership.<br><br>“Braith was the best five eighth in the game last year. I’m happy with him there. I like to run off him and he can find a gap.<br><br>“We’ve worked hard on our combinations with each other and Mitchell Pearce as well. Now that he has had a year under his belt he is looking even better and knows he needs to step it up to another level this year, but we think he will.”<br><br>With their triumvirate of fullback, five eighth and halfback having worked well in the off-season and brimming with confidence, Minichiello and the Roosters know they have to put it into practice on the field.<br><br>While they are looking for a good start to the season and are capable of obtaining it with opening rounds against the unfancied Rabbitohs, Raiders and Wests Tigers, the Roosters are looking long term and their pre-season has been geared towards it.<br><br>“I hope we start the season with a few wins, last season we started well, but that’s not really the most important part. At the end of last season we dropped away pretty badly through some lapses.<br><br>“Freddy (Brad Fittler) has been pretty hard on us during the pre-season in that respect. If one guy loses concentration then we all suffer for it.<br><br>“I think in that way he has certainly become a harder coach.”<br><br>With a good start to the year may come a rep opportunity but it seems it’s the furthest thing from Minichiello’s mind as he focuses purely on club form.<br><br>“I just want to play week to week and see how that goes. You never know what the future holds though.”<br><br>While Minichiello has his own goals he has revealed his side are working in groups with the outside backs, halves and forwards all setting their own goals as a unit.<br><br>“We haven’t really set club goals, but have set group goals. The outside backs are focused on catching, kicking and returning kicks.”<br><br>As for the other man Minichiello thinks fans should look out for, the name Setaimata Sa was first to his lips.<br><br>“Setaimata had a difficult pre-season with a few different things, but I see him as a go to man for us playing at lock he can be a ball player or a really strong runner.”<br><br>With the likes of Minichiello, Pearce, Anasta and Sa firing the Roosters could finally put it all together this year as Minichiello looks to wind back the clock.<br><br>