Breaking the Shackles

The pain of watching from the sidelines in 2008 has inspired Shane Shackleton to force his way into the Roosters starting line-up against the Eels at the Sydney Football Stadium tonight.

Shackleton, who missed most of 2008 due to a bicep injury, has been among the Tri-colours’ best in 2009 despite coming off the bench in the opening three rounds.

Statistically Shackleton deserves his spot in the run-on side after making the third most hit-ups, fourth most tackle breaks and fifth most metres.

“I’ve worked hard during the pre-season,” he said.

“My chance has come because of the two boys being stood down, but I’m really keen to get out there from the start and do my job.

“I’ve been pretty happy with my form, it’s been a while since I’ve started a season fully fit, last year I got injured in the first trial.

“I’ve still got a lot of improvement and I’ll be trying to step it up each week.”

He admits the frustration of being helpless on the sidelines last year is the driving force behind his great start to the new campaign.

“To have to sit on the sideline after a gruelling pre season and watch everyone else play and win together, that was something I really missed,” he said.

“It was good to see us win, but being out of action just makes you want to be out there more and be involved in the club.

“I am definitely appreciating my footy a lot more now, being injured makes you realise just how much you love being out there.

“We train so hard before the season starts, so the first thing you want to do is test out the new machine, so to be able to get out there fully fit and to do the things you have been working on is really exciting.”

The 26-year-old has only started in 13 of his 46 first-grade appearances and is jumping out of his skin at the opportunity to meet the Eels head-on.

“To be able to play in that opening exchange, I’m really geed up and ready to rip and tear,” he said.

“It is a totally different game in the opening minutes, obviously everyone is fresh and the pace is just blistering.

“Normally I’m on the bench and the first five minutes I don’t sit down because the adrenalin is going and I’m just on the sideline, just waiting to get out there.”

The Roosters’ forwards are expecting to be tested by the seemingly ageless Nathan Hindmarsh and Nathan Cayless.

While the Eels backline is struggling for fluency, the forwards have been impressive and have been grinding our results.

“It’s always a good battle against the Eels, they have always given us a good run,” he said.

“The old blokes have been doing it this year, I know Fitzy (Craig Fitzgibbon) is playing as good as I have ever seen him.

“It might be the mid-life crisis thing because the young blokes are nipping at their heels, but, whatever it is, Hindmarsh has obviously stepped it up and is playing really well for them.

“Fuifui Moimoi is in good form, Nathan Cayless is good every year and Hindmarsh is obviously their leader. Even Joe Galuvao is back at his best, so all over the forward pack is doing really well and we have a really tough job on our hands.”

The Roosters have had a rollercoaster start to the season. After being trounced at home by the Rabbitohs in round one, they dominated the Raiders in Canberra, before letting a lead slip against the Wests Tigers last week.

“Last week we had the Tigers, so we thought, and they came back and bit us because we switched off with 15 minutes to go,” Shackleton said.

“The forward group has a meeting most days and finishing the back-half of games has been touched on a lot.

“We know we can’t afford to switch off at any stage.

“We know we have let down the fans in the last couple of home games, we have conceded 90 points and they deserve better.

“We are going to put in for the fans tonight.”