Keary returns to spearhead Roosters' finals charge
Luke Keary will return from what he originally feared to be a dreaded ACL rupture just in time to spearhead the Roosters' finals charge, with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves also a chance of making a surprise comeback against Brisbane.
Keary has been named at five-eighth for Saturday's blockbuster between the two finals-bound sides, back on deck after suffering ligament damage in his knee against the Dragons three weeks ago.
In a column for Players Voice over the weekend, Keary revealed he "felt a couple of little pops when I did my knee" and "that the first thing you think is: ‘ACL’."
Keary and Waerea-Hargreaves will look to come through contact sessions at training during the week to force coach Trent Robinson's hand, with the latter pushing to return two weeks early from a broken rib.
Coming off a upset loss to the Raiders where strike centre Latrell Mitchell managed just 38 running metres with limited possession, skipper Jake Friend backed Keary to unleash the 21-year-old tyro once more as he squares off against NSW centre partner James Roberts.
As two of the game's genuine speed merchants, Roberts and Mitchell have already engaged in some tantalising battles – with the Roosters gun beating Roberts all ends up to secure a famous finals win last season.
With Keary calling the shots once more and Ryan Matterson returning to the pack after filling in solidly at five-eighth, Friend expects traffic to flow once more down the Roosters left edge that has produced 36 tries (second only to South Sydney) this season.
"I think attack wise, [Keary] is our best spark there for us," Friend said.
"Ryan Matterson's been good but [they're] different styles of player and I think it'd be really good for our attack to have him there on that left edge, feeding Latrell and Boyd [Cordner] and those boys.
"Definitely having Keary there on that left side is a great link to Trell. I'm not sure why we didn't get there as much on the weekend and obviously Latrell's got plenty of strike power so we want the ball in his hands as much as we can.
"Hopefully we can get him some more ball on the weekend."
The addition of Waerea-Hargreaves up front would provide serious firepower for the Roosters against a talented Broncos pack featuring upstart front-rowers Matt Lodge, Tevita Pangai jnr and David Fifita.
In all likelihood JWH is still another week away but the Kiwi prop has been named on an extended bench alongside young half Sean O'Sullivan.
Keary's return means O'Sullivan drops out of the 17-man line-up after warming the bench for the entire 80 minutes against Canberra, South Sydney and North Queensland.
O'Sullivan's 240-minute stint on the pine comes as an expected move to the Broncos next season on a two-year deal is close to being finalised, where the playmaker would add scrum-base back-up for the likes of Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima.
Friend admitted he felt for O'Sullivan, who scored a controversial debut try against the Titans in round 18 - the only match he has seen actual game time - but said he had not seen the repeated benchings affect the youngster's morale.
"I guess he's there to back up Matto or any injuries with Cooper or one of us halves," Friend said.
"I'm sure Robbo and Sean have spoken about, as a player it'd be a tough gig. But Sean's been really good, he's been training well and we haven't seen it affect him. He's just excited to be there and I think that's awesome.
"Sean's a pretty happy go lucky guy, he's been doing his thing at training and I'm sure whenever it is if he gets a crack off the bench, he'll do his job."