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Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello joins the Big League team as a columnist in 2014. Copyright: Supplied.

Things have been very different for us this year at the Roosters in terms of preparing for the season ahead.

Last year we had a new coach on board and all the players arrived for the pre-season on the same day in November. We spent plenty of time getting used to some new practices that our coach, Trent Robinson, was introducing, as well adjusting to his coaching style and that of the new assistants as well.

Our focus was on ourselves and making sure we were all on board with the new culture he wanted at the club and to trying to play our best football each week and hit those goals.

This year everyone was arriving back at a different time because of the World Cup. We had 15 players away at the tournament playing for a number of different nations, so we returned at different times to ensure we’d had enough of a break before starting the hard work you need to go through before an NRL season.

On top of all that, we’re now facing the challenge of being defending premiers.

I remember what it was like when you were coming up against the premiers in a match. The whole week there was firm focus among everyone on what we needed to do to beat them. There was something extra when you were preparing for a game like that.

Everyone wants to knock off the team that won the comp the year before, and we’re going to be no different. That’s how our season will be – every team will be out to beat us.

But we can’t focus on that and that’s not what our culture is about now. We’re confident in how we play and we don’t want to look to another team as a benchmark for where we want to be.

Whether we’re the defending premiers or a team trying to prove a point, it’s all the same to us now – we won’t be changing how we do things because of it.

We have standards for our team and when we go to training we all make sure that everyone is committed to working hard on achieving those. That’s how we’ll be setting the benchmarks for where we want to be this year.

Despite the result, the game against South Sydney was a great way to start the year. They definitely deserved the win. They were really strong in the ruck, shut us down and stopped us playing our game.

Last year we really prided ourselves on our defence and it just wasn’t good enough last week. We’ll now regroup and look at what went wrong and make sure we get our defence right and back to where we want it to be against Parramatta tomorrow.

Minichiello is a 2014 Big League columnist alonside Adam MacDougall, Kevin Walters, Greg Alexander and Brendan Cowell. In Big League’s Round 2 issue, MacDougall stresses for fans to not get too excited about Round 1 wins – it’s a long season ahead. Big League is on sale now at newsagents everywhere and at all NRL games.

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