Rollercoaster week symptomatic of Copley's season
It's said players always lift when they come up against their former club, and on Thursday night, Roosters centre Dale Copley certainly lived up to the adage scoring two tries in his side's 32-16 win over the Brisbane Broncos.
Originally contracted to remain at Red Hill this season, Copley was released by the Broncos to make room in the salary cap for James Roberts, who had earlier left the Gold Coast Titans following bungled negotiations.
It was a bitter pill to swallow given he had played his entire NRL career in Brisbane since making his first grade debut in 2009, forging lifelong friendships along the way with the bulk of the current squad.
After a shortened week in which he was surprisingly omitted from the side that took on the Storm in Melbourne, sentiment was cast aside as he crossed for a try in each half and set another one up – running over the top of Roberts in the process – to hand his former side its seventh loss in the past nine matches.
"It's pretty hard to put into words, to be honest," Copley said when describing the past week.
"I grew up with a lot of those guys since I was 13, 14. They're some of my best mates so it was different, but it was like playing your brothers in the backyard. I don't have any brothers, but that's what I'd expect it would have been like.
"I think everyone has the intention to be a one-club player when they set out on their NRL journey. I was no different.
"I thought that if that was possible, I would have liked to do that, but it didn't end up that way. The NRL is a business so I understand that and I copped it on the chin and came down here and it's going OK."
On a night where he totally outpointed Roberts, Copley was quick to downplay any suggestions that it was extra special to get one over the man who replaced him at the Broncos.
"It's like that every week. It's a battle out there, centre on centre every week, so it doesn't matter who I play; I want to get one up on them," the 25-year-old said.
"It was nothing personal there, that's our game. It's physical and I had a job to do tonight. I was pretty disappointed being left out last week, so I was pretty motivated to get my spot back and keep it.
"It's [been] a different week facing the old team, but just to get the win was nice. They've been few and far between; I think that's my second one of the year. That's the most satisfying thing."
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said there was no doubt that Copley was going to play a starring role on Thursday night, while his coaching counterpart at the Roosters said it was a just reward for his tenacity on and off the field in 2016.
"I was really happy for him – I was obviously happy for him to score the tries – but I thought he had some really good defensive plays on Roberts, which we've been working hard on. I thought that was a real credit to him tonight," Trent Robinson said.
"He's a good man and he's worked hard. He made a call to come down to Sydney from Brisbane. It hasn't been a smooth road either with the injuries, but it's nice to see a good guy like that work hard and get the rewards tonight."
When asked to describe his first year in Sydney, Copley replied, "It's been a bit of a rollercoaster."
The assessment seems fair given the pectoral injury he suffered in Townsville back in Round 3, as well as being a part of what's been the Roosters' worst season in years.
"It was a sort of quick move down to Sydney, settled in to Sydney, and then go to England, play a couple of games, get injured, come back and the results haven't been great," Copley said.
"It's been a rollercoaster, but everyone's remained really positive, and it’s a credit to the coaching staff and all the boys how positive it is showing up to work every day. It's a really good place to come in every day.
"Injuries are always tough. It doesn't matter where you get them; whether you're out at home getting mum and dad's home-cooked meals, it doesn’t matter. They're always tough.
"It was no tougher than anything I've been through before. It was probably the easiest rehab I've had, to be honest. I've dealt with a lot worse injuries and this one – while it was 11 weeks – it wasn't as painful as what I've had in the past."