Friend a fan of Radley but won't give up No.9 jersey without fight
Roosters skipper Jake Friend is all too happy to join the chorus of praise for pint-sized heavy hitter Victor Radley as he blocks out calls for the youngster to claim his No.9 jersey.
After 12 games in the Telstra Premiership arena, Radley rocketed onto the landscape on Sunday thanks to the try-saving tackle of 2018 on Manly's Dylan Walker, pulled off in front of the same 50-strong personal cheer squad that turns up each week to support of the Clovelly junior.
At times the cheers for Radley have been accompanied by jeers for an underperforming Friend this season, most notably when fans turned to Trent Robinson's coaches box late in a round-six loss to Souths, demanding for Friend to be hooked.
That criticism prompted a passionate public defence of Friend from his coach, as well as a private assurance there are no plans to shift him from the dummy-half duties he has performed for 220 Roosters games.
At the start of the year, Robinson spoke about reducing Friend's minutes given he has carried one of the NRL's heaviest defensive loads in recent years.
For his part, Radley sees his future as a back-rower once he fills out his 92kg frame, and Friend takes the noise from outside Roosters HQ with a hefty grain of salt.
"If you listen to all that stuff it will wear you down," Friend said on Tuesday.
"For me it's just been about getting in here and doing everything I can here and getting some rhythm in training and in the games.
"It's shit to hear but what can you do? People are going to say it. I'm not sure how we're going to progress with the interchange going forward but for me it's just about doing my role.
"I'm very clear with what Robbo wants from me and Robbo's pretty clear with me what he wants. All the outside stuff, it's there, you hear it, but I've just got to let it go."
Radley failed to have a grade two careless high tackle charge downgraded at the judiciary on Tuesday night, meaning he will sit out Saturday's clash with the Warriors.
He unsuccessfully argued for a reduced punishment for his shot on Manly enforcer Martin Taupau, resulting in a one-game ban.
That hit on Taupau may have missed its mark, but Radley's robust efforts without the ball have impressed plenty of observers, none more so than his captain and regular training partner.
"I do a lot of stuff with (Radley) around the dummy-half because he is coming in there and we do plenty of passing and that together," Friend said.
"He had a few plays in the game defensively (against Manly) that gave us a big lift and got us through those tough periods in the second half. The try saver is a try saver and everyone saw that but there were some big tackles there too.
"He's only young but he's got that rigidness and body for NRL already. Not just with those big hits but just his tackles in general, they're just solid so he's going to be an awesome player."