Roosters v Sea Eagles: Five things we learned
Geoff Toovey and Trent Robinson put on their best poker faces following their clubs' face-off in a trial on the Central Coast on Saturday night but they still managed to reveal plenty about their respective teams. Here are the five things we learnt about the Roosters and Sea Eagles just two weeks out from the season commencing.
5. Sonny who? Aidan Guerra is a man on a mission
Aided by solid showings from Boyd Cordner and Dylan Napa, gun Queensland Origin back-rower Aidan Guerra proved that there is plenty to be excited about within the Roosters' forward stocks. A maniac from the opening whistle in both attack and defence, Guerra proved a tough task for the Sea Eagles to deal with. As the Roosters power on without Sonny Bill Williams, coach Robinson said he knew he didn't have to look hard for the dual international's replacement.
"People kept asking who was going to fill that spot left by Sonny but we knew we had blokes. There were some good performances there from our back row, especially Aidan. The likes of Boyd and Aidan really helped in the middle with our defence but also played some classy stuff on the edge," Robinson said.
"Aidan has played in the back row his entire career so we didn't need to search for a replacement for Sonny when he left. Instead of getting someone there in the forwards, we got Blake Ferguson to the club to add strike in a different way."
4. Ferguson a long way off from reaching previous heights
Speaking of Ferguson, the 24-year-old is still a fair way off from reaching any kind of form which once saw him play for New South Wales. While he didn't play badly against the Sea Eagles by any means, Ferguson was no standout. Making a couple of solid runs and remaining solid in defence as mentor Anthony Mundine watched on from the stands, Ferguson ticked all of Robinson's boxes though the centre will need a few more runs under his belt to regain the form that is eventually expected of him.
3. Key Sea Eagles trio may miss Round 1
After a 30-point flogging, Sea Eagles coach Toovey revealed what could potentially be not one, not two but three extra blows to the club as they prepare for their scintillating showdown against Parramatta in 12 days time. While captain Jamie Lyon (knee) and back-rower Tom Symonds (elbow) came out of the game with injury concerns, Toovey remained more concerned for the wellbeing of key trio Steve Matai (shoulder), Brenton Lawrence and Jamie Buhrer (both knees).
"Obviously we have had operations over the pre-season. Steve Matai may or may not be back in time but he'll be close. Jamie Buhrer obviously had that ACL tear too but he may not be back in time either and Brenton Lawrence is again close but I don't know how he'll be come Round 1," Toovey said. "If the trio isn't available for selection they'll obviously come back two or three games later on in the season."
2. Mitchell Aubusson enters calculations for Friend vacancy
Not expected to return until at least Round 7, recently appointed co-captain Jake Friend has left a huge hole for Robinson to fill out of dummy half. Former Raider Matt McIlwrick, young gun Jackson Hastings and Wyong captain Mitch Williams have engaged in a three-way battle for the No.9 jumper over the course of the pre-season. Yet following his solid display on Saturday night you may as well add Mitchell Aubusson into the mix too. While McIlwrick started solidly in the opening exchanges, Aubusson went on to play the majority of the game in hooker with Hastings used predominantly in the halves.
"I think everyone obviously saw that Aubo has been working hard on his hooking play and he actually looked like a hooker. He looked really comfortable there. It's good to have options with the couple of decisions to make for Round 1," Robinson said.
"In saying that, I think Matty was really strong there. We decided to use Jack [Hastings] in the halves out there but he's been training at hooker so he'll come into contention there but Matty started the game and was really solid in defence out there and he rolled the ruck forward."
1. Clinton Gutherson had a haircut
Thank heavens too. Now we can all concentrate on the promising career the Sea Eagles utility has ahead of him.