Roosters star Boyd Cordner was proud to wear the No.16 in honour of Alex McKinnon.

Cordner rises for Alex

Boyd Cordner's won a Grand Final with number 18 on his back.

And at every level of the game, be it in the sky blue, green and gold or red, white and blue, the 22-year-old has debuted in a jumper outside of the starting 13.

So when Cordner pointed to the back of his jumper after his 71st minute try that put Panthers to bed, the bleeding obvious was made apparent. This number 16 jersey means a hell of a lot.

Donning the same number that his mate Alex McKinnon was injured in several months ago, Cordner didn't just rise for the bloke he got to know so well through years of junior rep footy, he played the house down.

With two tries, a game-high 202 metres, 37 tackles and four tackles, Cordner turned in the type of performance that in the words of The Castle's Darryl Kerrigan "is going straight to the poolroom". Right alongside the Tricolours number 16.

"It was unreal wearing that jumper for Alex and knowing what today meant, words can't really describe it," said Cordner.

"I'm honoured to play in that number 16 jersey and to represent Alex. It was great. We got a good turn-out today and hopefully we raised a fair bit of money for him because he deserves it.

"It's a great game rugby league, and a family game. And you see it in everybody rallying behind Alex, and the turn out we had here today."

The danger with these emotion-charged fixtures is of course letting the occasion distract from the job at hand. But with Cordner possessing one of the calmest heads the game has seen on shoulders so young, you get the feeling that was never a genuine possibility as the Roosters snapped a winless run that pre-dated Origin II.

"Obviously it was a great chance to show respect for Alex, and it was a bit emotional, but we knew we had a job to do, and I knew I had to prepare well and focus," Cordner told NRL.com of the club's preparations for the clash, in the end won by the Roosters 32-12.

"It was business as usual but a different game at the same time, so I'm just happy we got the win and got to do well with Alex in mind."

With plenty of chatter about the Roosters' motivations doing the rounds in different weeks, this was not just a win, but a showing the defending premiers sorely needed. Displaying the grit, and performing the grind so clearly lacking in their last-start capitulation to the Sharks a fortnight ago, the home truths delivered at a four-day training camp on the Central Coast looked to have well and truly landed. Up 18-0 at the break and running into wind as strong as it was brutally cold, the premiers' defensive resolve refused to wilt for over an hour despite the persistent attacking raids of the Panthers.

"I didn't go into camp, I was on State of Origin (duty), but in training when I came back with them this week there was definitely difference, and you probably saw it today in parts with our defence," said Cordner.

"Just the little things, we're a pretty positive group and we knew what we had to do. 

"We had that loss against Manly and then that pretty embarrassing loss against the Sharks so we had to turn it around pretty quickly. 

"Nothing more than a win today was going to cut it, so we're quite happy to get it."

And as for whether the Tricolours truly have the desire to be the first team to win back-to-back titles since the Broncos in 1997-98, Cordner was blunt. Trent Robinson and his men will be marking anything less than a victory lap come the first weekend of October a failure in their eyes.

"We won't think we've had a good season unless we've won the comp, so that doesn't change when you look at it that way," said Cordner.

"Even though we've won a comp, we still want to be the best. That's the motivation and that means it's still the same; we still have to win to prove that.

"Personally the motivation's still there. That feeling of winning a premiership, you don't get it anywhere else. 

"So the will for me, the fire in the belly, it's still there and I want to be putting in my best performance every week."