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The two factors to decide a WCC favour a Roosters win

There are two key factors that I believe tend to determine how successful an NRL Premiership team will be in England for a World Club Challenge, and both of those point towards a Roosters victory.

I was lucky enough to play in one World Club Challenge during my career (although the game didn't end so well for me personally – more on that later) and the same factors that underpinned our big 38-0 win over St Helens in 2003 should again favour the Roosters.

Personnel changes

We didn't really have too many personnel changes from the team that was the 2002 Grand Final. Todd Byrne replaced Brett Mullins on the wing, Anthony Minichiello moved to fullback in place of Luke Phillips and Brett Finch came into the Roosters squad after our hooker Simon Bonetti retired.

Other teams might be more affected by personnel changes which can turn it into more of a trial where they are trying to find their way with a new line-up.

We had won something like nine straight to finish the 2002 season and carried that into the next season, which I think the Roosters will do again this year.

Roosters halves Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk.
Roosters halves Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

The Roosters this weekend will be missing Blake Ferguson and Latrell Mitchell from the grand final side and a couple of the bench forwards will change but they won't need to test out new combinations which will work in their favour.

I think the Roosters were still on the up towards the back end of the year and they peaked in the grand final. They've still got room for improvement now they've worked on their combinations and I'm expecting them to hit the ground running this year.

The approach

A lot depends on the way the coaching staff, the administration and the senior players look at the game.

Is it looked at as another trophy in the cabinet or are you going away to be part of something special, to earn a place in history and play for something bigger than yourselves?

There can be a view in some parts of the media and public that it is a glorified trial but good administration and coaches can override that.

In a way you are getting a chance to represent the best of Australia against the best of the UK. Lots of guys in the team will never represent their country but you're getting a chance to represent best of Australia against England.

Trent Robinson is the perfect man to encapsulate all of that. The Roosters will be looking at it through the right lens, with the right frame of mind.

Without the right leadership you could lose sight of the fact that it could be once in a lifetime opportunity.

Back when we went over, NRL clubs hadn't been having a lot of success. It's a completely different game and just two Australian clubs won between 2000 and 2008 (Melbourne in 2000 were the others).

Trent Robinson and Roosters players.
Trent Robinson and Roosters players. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

I don't know what the preparation of the other NRL clubs were like but I know when you've been training hard in the Australian summer then you go over there, it can be a bit of a shock. It's cold and raining and miserable, the ground you train on feels heavy and soggy and the facilities more often than not were substandard. You could be forgiven for feeling like you just wanted to get through the game and get back to Australia.

But Trent Robinson is big on history and once you dig into that you start to play for something a bit bigger than yourself and your immediate team which can add a few percentage points of effort. I had a chat to Robbo before they went over and he said they were going have a bit of fun, treat it as an opportunity to visit Europe and do something different but also take the match seriously and give it the respect it deserves.

A turning point in my career

That trip to England turned out to be a big turning point in my career, but not for the reasons I would have wanted.

When we won the grand final I played at halfback but over the off-season the club bought Brett Finch. All the talk during the pre-season was that he and I would have to fight it out for the halfback position. I started the World Club Challenge at halfback but hurt my ankle and missed the start of the year and that was it, I pretty much never played halfback again.

I did my ankle in the first half but we were flying back the next day and the doc told me to leave the strapping tape on to stop my ankle blowing up so I couldn't really celebrate the win with everyone else.

I was in such pain trying to sleep that night the doc came in and gave me an injection so I could sleep. We got back to London then I had to get the plane to Sydney and go straight to the physio in Kensington and they cut the tape off my ankle. I had a syndesmosis injury and I'm not sure we knew how to treat it as well back then. I didn't get an operation but I missed the start of the season and spent almost the whole year at hooker.

I also remember from that game, Brad Fittler scored a try and the in-goal was frozen, he hit his head on the ground and ripped the top of his scalp off his head!

But I don't regret the trip at all. Ricky Stuart and the staff we had were pretty cool, it was a fun adventure. We had old heads steering the ship like Freddy and Luke Ricketson and we had a good time.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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