Roosters hooker Jake Friend.

Friend relieved to have re-discovered his mojo

Jake Friend remained stoic as critics blamed him for the Roosters stuttering start to the 2018 Telstra Premiership season.

But the veteran was all smiles last weekend after his side's 56-24 battering of the Sea Eagles at Lottoland.

It was as if Friend had been waiting for a sunny Sunday afternoon to prove he was not a washed-up hooker who should make way for someone fresher like Victor Radley.

"I had a period at the start [of season] that was tough and not the way I wanted to play," Friend told NRL.com.

"You always want to play good footy, but it just wasn't happening for me."

The Roosters began the year 3-3 but had trouble stringing two wins together until rounds 9 and 10. Then things started to click and Trent Robinson's men have now won six of their last seven.

They also only lost one game through the Origin period, where they had four players involved.

But it was the Manly result that Friend can comfortably call his best game in 2018 so far.

He made four tackle breaks, two line break-assists, two try assists, made 10 runs for 88 metres [50 of those from dummy-half], plus his usual 46 tackle haul with a 92 per cent effectiveness rate.

It should silence all the doubters that the 28-year-old with nearly 230 NRL games to his name was on borrowed time.

"Sunday's result doesn't make it any better or worse, but it was pleasing personally to get a game out (Manly) like that," Friend said.

"Hopefully I can keep that sort of form going into the back end of the year. "The way we've been playing, the whole team has been progressing.

"And we're probably as clear as we've ever been on how we want to play and that only helps my game. With everyone on the same page, it makes my decision-making easier. It also makes going off structure easier when I see it."

No-one can foresee when a tackle-bust or line-break is going to happen. But the Roosters are combining the instinctive football with the set plays much better these days.

"You have your structure but you want to play footy whenever you see it," Friend said. "We back ourselves to play what we see.

"It also helps me when the middle is playing as well as they did on Sunday. It allows me to run from all those quick play-the-balls."

The Roosters are indeed turning their season around, after major personnel changes to their attacking spine - bringing in a new halfback and fullback. Friend is the only member of the 2013 premiership-winning spine left.

"We just needed time …time to play more together, to train more together," he said. "I guess to get out of a slump you've just got to play footy really."

Friend is also confident he won't suffer another dip in form with the finals looming.

"It is what it is. At the time it wasn't hard [to work through], it was just more personal so I felt frustrated,'' he said.

Roosters hooker Jake Friend.
Roosters hooker Jake Friend. ©NRL Photos

"I knew that if I kept doing my thing at training, then it would come around for me."

Now he's excited about the next six games coming up against some of the hookers he admires most, starting with the Dragons' Cameron McInnes on Sunday.

"The Dragons are going really well and that's a lot to do with their middle. Cameron is key to that.

"We have to nullify their ruck speed so that's limiting what he does as hooker. He just does many things very well. He's a very well-rounded player."

Waiting in the wings to next test Friend are: Jake Granville [Cowboys], Damien Cook [Rabbitohs], Josh Hodgson [Raiders] and Andrew McCullough [Broncos] over the next six weeks.