Cornish grabs long-awaited chance
Former Raiders halfback Mitch Cornish starred for his current club on Friday night in what was effectively his first NRL game for almost two years, unleashing a commanding kicking game to keep his side on the front foot for much of the contest.
The 24-year-old Cornish played 15 games for the Raiders in 2014-15, the last in Round 26 of 2015 before joining Parramatta and – despite playing well in the team's (later stripped) 2016 Auckland Nines tournament win – struggled with a series of injuries and did not end up playing a game in the top grade.
After training strongly with the Roosters and performing well for Intrust Super Premiership team Wyong, Cornish has been added to the Roosters extended squad several times and got a start in the 17 in Round 12 with a host of Origin players absent – but was used off the bench for just three minutes.
In his first full game for 670 days, Cornish kicked impeccably, tormenting the Rabbitohs backs with some towering bombs, and chimed into attacking structures well, throwing some nice passes and finishing with a massive, match-high 505 kick metres.
His effort drew plenty of praise from his coach Trent Robinson after the game.
"Halfbacks allow everybody else to do their role and Mitch came in [and] his talk out there was really strong," Robinson said.
"He pushed the forwards around and kicked us into really good positions."
Robinson said he had spoken to legendary Newcastle halfback Andrew Johns about Cornish regularly over the years.
"We always thought this guy was really good. We really liked his style and he's been outstanding for us this year," Robinson said.
"People don't see it because he hasn't played NRL much but he's been really quality for us as a half. He's 24, played 20 games and he gets to win a game like that, that's what footy's about so I was really happy for him."
Speaking to media afterwards, Cornish was keen to play down his own efforts, saying he was simply doing the job asked of him which was made easier by the contribution of the team's forwards.
He said he had known since Monday he would be moved into the starting side over utility Connor Watson which gave him time to get his head around things.
"Then we got the combinations together through the week with Luke Keary and [Jake Friend] at hooker. It was a good week and we came out and did a job," Cornish said.
"'Robbo' was really good for me, he didn't put any sort of pressure on me which mentally was good. I didn't really think about it too much, I've got two kids to look after as well so dealing with them took my mind off the whole week so that definitely helped."
He said he had been marking down the Origin period as his best chance to get a run in first grade right from the pre-season.
"I was just happy to get that game," he said.
"'Pearcey' [halfback Mitch Pearce] had a really good pre-season, we knew he'd be a chance for Origin this year and I knew that was going to be a time when I was going to get an opportunity and that's all I sort of aimed for.
"I'm just happy to be a part of this success for the club this year and hopefully the boys can go further."