SBW legacy alive in Roosters resurgence
Even though he was only at the Roosters for two years, the impact Sonny Bill Williams had on the professionalism of the Bondi club has been a big factor in the team's resurgence this year, according to Roosters veteran Mitch Aubusson.
Asked this week about the reasons behind the rapid turnaround from their 15th-place finish last year to a second-place ladder finish and preliminary final berth, Aubusson said the pain and experience of last year and improved ability win big moments were big factors, plus some smart recruiting in Luke Keary and Michael Gordon.
He also spoke to the culture at the club – one that he, along with the likes of Jake Friend and Mitch Pearce have been a key part of building since they were teenagers. And in particular the influence of one star recruit back in 2013.
"From the start when Sonny came in he taught us a lot of stuff about being professional and how to do things on the field," Aubusson said.
"Then we took some stuff he did off the field and the young guys need to fit in with that, with how you act and behave otherwise you get weeded out here.
"It's really important you're doing everything you can on the field but then off the field is the same as well, it's your own brand now and the Roosters brand is not just on the field, it's off the field."
Williams was set to be a star from a young age when he emerged at Canterbury, winning a premiership in his debut season. He made a successful switch to the 15-man code for four years before a high-profile switch back to league with the Roosters yielded immediate and spectacular results, helping bring the premiership to Bondi in the first of his two seasons back.
In that time, even little things like mid-week preparation were an eye-opener for some players when Williams first arrived.
"The way he prepared for a game, he'd be in the gym 20 minutes or half an hour before everyone else working on different areas of his body that he needed to work on," Aubusson said.
"And that was something impressive because he's a pretty well-put-together guy!
"But the maintenance he did was amazing and it got everybody on board and the way it's gone through the rest of us older guys that were there, we start doing it and the younger guys coming up are doing the same.
"Twenty minutes each session before we have to be there there's heaps of guys in the gym with a bit of music on and just working on some things.
"It was all things to make him better, we all picked up on that and thought we have to jump on board with it too and it's been working for us pretty well so far.
"He's a world class athlete, I think no-one would deny that. What he showed us and probably what he shows most other clubs he's been in, it really gave us the next level. I think there's still other levels to go through to get better."
Aubusson expanded on some of the other improvements that had made a difference in the team's improved results this year.
"A bit of hurt is driving from last year and how we performed. We lost a lot of close games last year. It's good to see we've turned that around," he said.
"The new recruits with Keary and Micky Gordon coming as well. They've been amazing for us. Those two things have spun us around to go in the right direction."