Roosters coach Trent Robinson has challenged young hooker Sam Verrills to stamp his authority in the absence of the injured Jake Friend.
With the co-captain and first-choice rake sidelined with a broken forearm, Verrills played a full NRL match for the first time in last round's victory over Canterbury and made 50 tackles.
Deputising for a dual premiership winner as a five-game rookie is a daunting job but Robinson wants 20-year-old Verrills to impose himself on Sunday's clash with the Titans at the SCG.
"It's about getting Sam being our dominant hooker and playing that role," Robinson said.
"I wanted to leave him out there for the 80 minutes [last week]. To feel that whole bit of time rather than getting that rest is important.
"He'll do the job. He's ready to play 80 minutes and if we decide to change that then we will. But having that mentality about being our dominant hooker and playing that role tomorrow is really key."
Victor Radley stepped in for Friend after he ruptured his biceps earlier this year and remains a dummy-half option, but Robinson prefers to leave the hit-man at lock.
Verrills's slick passing is another reason why Robinson has entrusted the NSW under-20s representative with the No.9 jersey instead of Radley.
"[Verrills provides] two things – the ability for Victor to play that 13 role and play his best role, and then high-quality service," Robinson said.
"With the number of tackles that he achieved [against the Bulldogs], he [will] start to take that work rate of our hookers who've played there in the past."
Friend is slated to return around finals time and Robinson confirmed the 29-year-old's rehabilitation is tracking well.
"He's in every day and progressing. He'll be ready when he's ready," Robinson said.
"It's a pretty simple injury when it comes to a break, so when he's right to go we'll put him back in."
The Roosters will be without front-rowers Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (suspension) and Siosiua Taukeiaho (calf) and skipper Boyd Cordner (calf) against the last-placed Gold Coast on Sunday afternoon.
Robinson said Taukeiaho and Cordner had responded well to treatment during the week having suffered their injuries against Canterbury.
"Those two boys are getting going. We've got some good movement out of them this week, so it was about getting the repair done early enough and they'll just keep progressing over the next couple weeks," he said.
While the loss of the key pair is an undoubted blow, Robinson insisted the defending premiers are unfazed given their depth.
"We go into tomorrow not thinking about those guys. We go into tomorrow thinking about the 17 guys that are playing the game – and that's the positive," Robinson said.
"We believe in the guys that are playing for us tomorrow, no matter what position they're playing, because they've all played so far this year … They know their role, they know what they need to do."
Match: Roosters v Titans
Round 20 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
- LIVE PASS
And he's not worried about a lack of direction with Cordner and Friend missing.
"Cooper [Cronk] naturally will take that captaincy role, but we've got our club captain in Mitchell Aubusson who's been there for a long time and is a very good leader," Robinson said.
"And then guys that really step up like James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Isaac Liu on his 150th game. Those guys are the ones that really sit there and decide how we're going to play and what they want to see from the other players.
"That's a credit to the way guys like James and Luke have developed in the last 18 months."
Robinson endorsed newly-appointed Titans coach Justin Holbrook – who was the Roosters mentor's assistant from 2014 until joining St Helens in 2017 – as the man to guide the embattled club to greener pastures when his tenure begins next year.
"He's a very good coach and his success speaks for itself. I still speak to him regularly," Robinson said. "I really wish him the best."