Hastings will benefit from finals lead-up
Young Roosters halfback Jackson Hastings will carry the experience he has gained filling in for Mitchell Pearce in recent weeks into the finals series, with the return of the senior halfback still uncertain.
At the finals captain call at the SCG on Monday, co-captain Jake Friend said Pearce will be looking to try and test out the hamstring with some light running early this week but reaffirmed coach Trent Robinson's comments after last Friday's win over South Sydney that Pearce is highly unlikely to play this week.
"I'm not sure to be honest, I think he'll try and run [Monday] or [Tuesday]. It's a day by day thing, he's got to get back to 90 per cent strength in that hamstring to be close. It'd be lovely to get Mitch back but at the moment I don't know."
While premiership-winner Pearce's big-game experience and combination with five-eighth James Maloney would be an asset in the big games, the form of 19-year-old playmaker Hastings has certainly taken the edge off Pearce's absence.
Hastings has supported Maloney well in the last two full games he's played in the No.7 jersey with Pearce unavailable, showing a composed passing and kicking game and willingness to challenge the line directly.
"The two games Jackson Hastings has played leading into the finals are going to help him a lot and we're very confident in Jacko to do the job for us in the finals and we're looking forward to seeing how he goes," Friend said.
"The last couple of weeks have been really good for him confidence wise and I think he's built a few combinations with a couple of the boys. It'll be really good for him going into the finals series."
The Roosters host the fourth-placed Storm on Friday night in a qualifying final to kick off the finals series and Friend said isn't focused on his head-to-head matchup with Kangaroo and Storm captain Cameron Smith.
"Cameron's the best hooker and probably one of the best players in the game. Personally I enjoy playing against the best players in my position and hopefully I have a good game I guess, but I'm not really worried about that, I'm more worried that as a team we're turning up and playing well," Friend said.
"They've got a lot of experience and they've played a lot of big games and I guess that sort of stuff is a bonus in finals footy. We know they'll turn up to play and they're going to be a tough opponent."
The Roosters are currently on a remarkable 12-game winning run and while Friend welcomed the confidence boost he added it will count for little once the crunch games start.
"It's good to have a bit of confidence from those games and a bit of momentum but I think finals footy is a totally different stage... It's a different comp come finals," he said.
"The week off is a big advantage and we'd love that so we'll be doing everything we can to get that."
The Roosters also weren't focusing on the fact that arguably their two best players over the past month – Maloney and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – would be leaving the club at the end of the season for the Sharks and Warriors respectively.
"Every year's like that. People come and go and every year there's a group that works together for that end goal. It is big loss losing Jimmy and Roger and there is a sense of trying to make the most of it but I don't think it's any different to any other year," Friend said.
"This is a great time of year to be involved in. We've all been looking forward to it and I'm just excited to see what we can do as a team."