Knights should brace for fired-up JWH: Evans
While much of the focus this week has been on Mitchell Pearce's return to the NRL, there's another Rooster set to be let off the leash for the first time in 2016 when the Tricolours run out against the Knights on Saturday evening.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves hasn't played since tearing his ACL against the Broncos just 12 minutes into their Round 24 clash last year at Allianz Stadium – the scene of his comeback game this weekend – and according to teammates, the 27-year-old is champing at the bit to once again wreak havoc on a footy field.
Fellow Roosters forward Kane Evans has been carrying some of the load this season in the enforcer's absence, and has warned the Knights that Waerea-Hargreaves will be keen to make up for lost time this weekend.
"I actually feel sorry for whoever runs it straight at Jared first because he's got a lot built up. He's keeping calm and he's ready to go this week. I can't wait to play alongside him," Evans said.
"He's a pillar of our team so to have him back is going to be massive. It's going to give everyone that mental confidence and then on game day he's going to have that physical presence which is going to lift the team."
A relieved Evans said Waerea-Hargreaves had spared his teammates any headaches at training in recent weeks. Well, almost everyone.
"He's actually been pretty good. He's been holding back which is funny for Jared because he normally just pumps us," Evans said.
"He's only probably knocked one person out in training, which is good for Jared. It wasn't me. It was Omar Slaimankhel… picking on the poor fullback."
Fellow Roosters prop Sam Moa said he was looking forward to once again running out alongside the man who has asserted himself as the unquestionable leader of the forward pack.
"I'm really happy for him," Moa said.
"It's been a long time in rehab and I'm not only happy for him but happy for his family to have him back playing and doing what he does best, and that's bashing people on the field."
The addition of Waerea-Hargreaves and halfback Mitchell Pearce should be enough to see the Tricolours bounce back to winning ways against the Knights, but teammate Aidan Guerra has warned against expecting too much from the prized pair too soon.
"It's their first game back. You think about how we played in our first trial, or you think about how long it takes to find your real form," the Queensland representative said.
"We're not pressuring them to come back and get man of the matches – although I'm sure both of them would like to. We understand you can't just rock up and set the world on fire straight away."