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Storm chasers: Aubusson and Friend once in Melbourne's sights

Roosters stalwarts Mitch Aubusson and Jake Friend rack up 500 NRL games between them in Sunday's grand final against Storm but it could so easily have been Melbourne celebrating that milestone.

A rugby league lifetime ago, former Storm recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan was at his charming best trying to lure both teenagers into the Craig Bellamy stable.

"We offered 'Junior' [Mitchell Pearce] a deal back then and chased Jakey pretty hard too," O'Sullivan told NRL.com.

"I spent a lot of time with him and his mum and dad, wined them and dined them. But it wasn't that easy, it was quite hard in those days trying to get kids to move to Melbourne."

Friend, now co-captain at the Roosters and sitting on 237 games in the famous tricolours jersey, remembers being a 15-year-old and having the adults argue over him in a friendly manner.

"My mum and dad milked him for a couple of dinners I think. There's a bit of Storm gear up in Noosa still," Friend told NRL.com of his Sunshine Coast home.

"I didn't end up going and Pete ended up at the Roosters anyway."

Aubusson, sitting on 262 games, crossed paths with O'Sullivan at the Australian Institute of Sport.

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"They had a rugby league program back then. So I went through there as a 16-17 year-old and met 'Sully' through that," Aubusson said.

"I had a few chats with him, but in the end I chose the Roosters because my brother [James] was here. So I thought it was a smart move to come down as he knew the place.

"So I signed and then James actually went to Melbourne in my debut year [2007]."

O'Sullivan remembers snaring the elder Aubusson brother in his Storm quest, with James playing 16 games en route to Melbourne's 2007 grand final win, which he was 18th man for. But the Ballina boys were reunited back at the Roosters, where O'Sullivan landed as well, within a year anyway.

"I've always loved Mitch as a player. He's one of my favourites. He'd signed with the Roosters as a kid, when I signed James, and it was always my intention to try and sign him," O'Sullivan said.

"Mitch is red, white and blue from the tip of his toes to the top of his head.

"I'm sure he would've had interest from other clubs over the years and could've got more elsewhere but he's a fantastic clubman and a fantastic person."

A versatile utility, Aubusson would be welcome at any club since he can play in the halves, centres and back-row with equal finesse.

But like so many of his day, larger than life club icon Arthur Beetson played a massive part in Aubusson's journey to the Roosters.

"I was brought down [from Ballina in northern NSW] for camps and had been in their junior system for a few years through school. So Artie Beetson picked me up and had me on a scholarship," he said.

"I really loved the way Artie and the Roosters treated me and my family. It was a no-brainer for me to come down straight after school and give it a crack."

Roosters Mitch Aubusson, James Tedesco, Blake Ferguson and Jake Friend celebrate a try.
Roosters Mitch Aubusson, James Tedesco, Blake Ferguson and Jake Friend celebrate a try. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

Friend equally had his impressionable brush with the Immortal.

"He was always up at the school boy carnivals in Queensland, so I'd met him a few times," Friend said.

"He was a big part of me coming down as well. It's nice to have a club legend like that throw his hand up for you."

Despite the early contact with the Storm, neither Friend or Aubusson feel any soft spot for their grand final foes on Sunday.

"No, I've got no feelings for them at all. I've been with the Roosters since I was 16 – I absolutely love the place," Aubusson said.

Friend was equally firm in feeling no link.

"Never. Since I signed the scholarship at 15, and then I came down to play SG Ball, I've grown up here. I love the place and the people in it," he said.

"This is home for me."

 

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