Roosters boosted by Pearce's return
The Sydney Roosters have received a much-needed boost with star halfback Mitchell Pearce set to return from a calf injury on Thursday night against the Bulldogs.
Pearce hasn't played since Round 11 – incidentally the last time the sides met – and has been restricted to just three matches in 2016 following his eight-game ban to start the year.
Roosters assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon believes his inclusion will not just benefit the team, but also Pearce, as he makes his second comeback to footy in 2016.
"He's obviously an integral part of how we play," Fitzgibbon told NRL.com.
"We haven’t had much of him in the side this year – it was only three games I think.
"Getting over the initial disappointment of the suspension would have been hard, and then he gets himself back out there – we had a good win in his first game back – and then lost the next two and then he's out with injury.
"He's had to find some inner motivation and get himself back, and he's done that. He's trained really hard and looks really fresh. He wants to get a good extended run of footy for the back end of the year.
"He looks in good spirits, he looks really excited to get back on the field, and we'll need him to hold off a pretty strong Dogs line-up."
The Roosters halfback won't be joined by teammate Boyd Cordner on Thursday night as the NSW Blues back-rower continues to recover from a foot injury he picked up in Game I of the Holden State of Origin series.
Fitzgibbon said Cordner had resumed training and was hopeful he would make a timely return before the end of the season.
"He saw a surgeon the other day and it's still ongoing with his recovery at the moment, but he won't be right for this weekend," he said.
"There are definitely some signs of improvement and we're hoping to get him back at the end of the year and hold off surgery if that's possible.
"He's been training, but not with the group at the moment. He's certainly been going through his rehab processes and training with the rehab guys and conditioning guys, but he hasn't trained with the group as yet."
In spite of Cordner's prolonged absence, the Roosters have named their strongest 17 of the season to take on a Canterbury side that has looked the goods in recent weeks and has already tasted victory against the Tricolours this year.
"Boyd Cordner's not available but other than that we're pretty close to as strong as we can get," Fitzgibbon continued.
"We're going to need it to hold off a Dogs team who were outstanding last week against the Broncos. We'll need everyone on deck and everyone playing well to be able to get the victory.
"They really took it to Brisbane [last week]. You've only got to look at their team. They're well organised, they're well coached so it's not a matter of the line-up or the names. It's how they play and they're playing well at the moment.
"Last week was a formidable performance so we're ready for a challenge, and we're looking forward to it.
"Every time we play them we have some high quality matches. They really put it to us out at Homebush in our first fixture this year. We'll have to be far improved to be able to get the victory tomorrow night."
The Roosters will head into the clash on the back of two straight losses, but Fitzgibbon said they would take plenty of belief out of their narrow 12-10 defeat in New Zealand a fortnight ago.
With 10 rounds to go, the Tricolours require nine wins if they want to play finals footy, but Fitzgibbon said the focus this week was simply on picking up the two competition points.
"We had a pretty spirited effort over in New Zealand in the round previous so it's important to take the positives out of that," he said.
"We lost a couple of Origin players and we were going over there to New Zealand who had won two games previous to that.
"To hang in there and push them all the way…we were pretty pleased with the way we came out of that; albeit disappointed we didn't get the win.
"It's a big difference around the camp when you do have a victory, and we haven't had many this year.
"Mathematically we're still in with a shot, but we haven't spoken about the equations and how many losses and how much room we've got to breathe. We're just chasing a victory at the moment and a performance that we can be proud of that ends in two points."
"We've got to start displaying our own sings of the performance levels that we've set over the last few years. We feel like we're making steps towards that."