Roosters out to prove doubters wrong
Only six members of the 2013 premiership-winning Roosters squad are expected to line up in the Round 1 clash against the Rabbitohs.
Retirements, injuries and player movements have seen some of the club's best talent move on in recent years, but their absence has opened the door for the next 'superstars' to emerge.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was given such an opportunity when club legend Anthony Minichiello retired at the end of 2014, and now teen sensation Latrell Mitchell has the chance to follow in his footsteps.
The boom rookie set the Holden Cup on fire in 2015, and has already shown glimpses of his heavily-touted form at the Auckland Nines and World Club Series.
Mitchell scored the tournament's longest try in Auckland, and bamboozled several St Helens defenders with his fleet-footed craftiness in the side's comfortable win in the UK.
While he has come through the ranks as a fullback, Mitchell is set to start his NRL career on the wing; a similar apprenticeship to last year's Dally M Fullback of the Year.
Friend has no doubts his new star is physically ready for the NRL, and is confident he has the mindset to make the swift transition from NYC to first-grade.
"I think mentally he's only going to get better with more experience," Friend told NRL.com.
"He's had a big pre-season and he's worked hard. He's got himself fit and strong. For an 18-year-old he played really well, and for a first game, it was good to see. I'm looking forward to seeing what else comes out of him this year."
While Mitchell likely bides his time on the wing, Blake Ferguson is set to get first crack at the vacant No. 1 position for the season-opener against Souths.
Ferguson had an impressive debut season with the Roosters, scoring 12 tries on the right edge for the Tricolours, and has impressed teammates with his commitment to learning the subtleties of the new role.
"'Fergo' has worked really hard in the pre-season," Friend said.
"He's taken on the role from day dot and I think he's shown us at training how much he cares about it. He went really well [in the World Club Series] and we're looking forward to seeing how he'll go."
Ferguson's switch to the No. 1 jersey means only one member of the Roosters' spine from last year's preliminary final loss to the Broncos will feature in Sunday's clash with the Rabbitohs.
The loss of personnel in key positions, coupled with injuries to Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has some people questioning the 2013 NRL premiers' credentials in 2016.
However, their skipper refused to buy into outside talk, telling NRL.com that the Tricolours were tracking well ahead of the new season.
"All that sort of stuff, whether it's positive or negative, I don't think it has bothered us. We have our goals as a team and know what we want to get done. We judge ourselves on those," the 26-year-old said.
"All the other stuff is out of our control and we're just worried about our group and where we want to be and what we want to achieve for the year.
"We want to be up there at the top at the backend of the year. I'm not going to go into detail but we have our goals and what we want to do and I think the pre-season has been a good start to that."