Roosters learn from 2010 pain
The Sydney Roosters are bidding to become only the third team in history – and the first in 56 years – to complete a four-nil season whitewash of their grand final opponents.
It is not unusual for two teams to meet four times in a season, culminating in the grand final, but it is highly unusual for one team to win all of the clashes.
In the vast majority of cases the results have been split, but if the Roosters win the grand final at ANZ Stadium on Sunday that will make it four wins from four clashes between the two teams this season.
The Roosters won 16-4 at Brookvale Oval in Round 9, 18-12 at Allianz Stadium in Round 16 and 4-0 at Allianz Stadium in Week One of the Finals Series.
The only teams to finish with a four-nil season record over their grand final opponents are the St George side of 1957, which beat Manly 31-9 in the grand final, and the Balmain side of 1944, which beat Newtown 12-8 in the final, which was the deciding game under the challenge format that year.
But the Roosters, who are slight favourites to beat the Sea Eagles, aren't going back that far when they talk about previous grand finals in the lead-up to Sunday's game.
There are seven players named in the side to meet Manly who played in the losing Roosters grand final team against St George Illawarra in 2010.
They are captain and fullback Anthony Minichiello, centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, halfback Mitchell Pearce, hooker Jake Friend, prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, lock Frank-Paul Nu'uausala and reserve forward Mitchell Aubusson.
That year, the Roosters finished sixth in the regular season and went on a fairytale run through the finals – all the way to the big one.
It started with a massive Braith Anasta field-goal that forced extra time against Wests Tigers in the first week of the finals, a game the Roosters then won 19-15 with a Kenny-Dowall try, and continued with wins over Penrith (34-12) and Gold Coast (32-6).
But it ended with a 32-8 loss to the Dragons, after the Roosters led 8-6 at halftime.
This year, there is a very different look about the Roosters as they prepare for the biggest game of the season.
They won the minor premiership and then went straight from Week One to Week Three of the finals with their win over Manly. And against Newcastle, for a place in the grand final, they powered their way to a 40-14 win.
The Roosters feel they are a much different team going into this game than they were three years ago.
"In 2010 we were just happy to be there," Kenny-Dowall told NRL.com. "With all the events that were on, the focus definitely got taken away from the game.
"The boys that were there in 2010 will definitely be a lot better prepared and have their focus a lot more on the game.
"We have to make sure we get things right this time around.
"There's only two boys (in the Roosters' side) who have won the grand final before and there's eight or nine who have come off second best.
"Grand finals don't come along very often, so those boys want to make the most of this opportunity."
Minichiello won with the Roosters in 2002, and second-rower Sonny Bill Williams won with the Bulldogs in 2004.
"The 2010 grand final was the first for a lot of our guys and they've got a little bit of experience under their belt now and know how to handle the week," Minichiello said.
"It's obviously a busy week and sometimes you need to be a bit selfish in your preparation. When you get on the training field you need to make sure you train well."
Waerea-Hargreaves added: "We are enjoying the week leading up to the game, but at the same time working hard to ensure we come out on top.
"There are a few things leading up to the game I've learnt in the past in regards to preparation, and I’m sticking to my routine and not doing anything different."
Waerea-Hargreaves said watching Fremantle lose to Hawthorn in last weekend's AFL grand final had reminded him of the pain of losing in 2010.
"Watching that, you don't want to go back there," he said. "It hurts and it's always in the back of your mind. I've felt what they (the Fremantle players) felt, and we'll be doing all we can to avoid it."
Friend said the Roosters weren't quite ready to win a grand final in 2010 because they weren't expected to get to the big game.
"We were just happy to be there," he said. "We soaked the week up, but we probably didn't know how much it meant. This week we’re soaking it up, but come Sunday we'll be there to win."