'Not our go': Steals tactics won't affect Roosters' game plan

Roosters players say Canberra's penchant for pilfering the Steeden in one-on-one strips won't alter their game plan – but insist they won't be looking to use the divisive tactic themselves.

Several Roosters forwards told NRL.com that while they needed to be aware of the strip, they wouldn't let it put them off their game.

Senior figures from the refereeing ranks spoke this week of the difficulty in policing the issue.

The Raiders lead the NRL in one-on-one steals this year with 28. Josh Hodgson has 13 of those, which is more than any other club has in total other than Melbourne (19). The Roosters have just three all season, fewer than anyone except North Queensland.

Canberra have four of their steals just in their two matches against the Roosters, and three of those four were against bench prop Zane Tetevano.

"I remember I got stripped a couple of times by them guys but I'm not worried," Tetevano told NRL.com.

"I think you prepare for any kind of strategy. You just have to protect the footy. I prepare myself to make sure I can get the best carry I can and get the best defence I can as well."

Dunamis Lui in round nine, then Josh Hodgson and Elliot Whitehead in round 21, each pinched the ball from Tetevano's grasp this season.

Lui wrestled the ball away on the ground after two other tacklers dropped off; Hodgson reefed the ball away seconds after Tetevano picked up a loose ball resulting from a Sam Verrills steal; while the Whitehead steal came very late in a three-man tackle less than a second after the two other tacklers dropped off.

"Everyone finds a new strategy but it (the stripping rule) is in our game now so we have to learn it and we have to learn how to counter it," he added.

Match: Roosters v Raiders

Grand Final -

Full Time
Roosters

Home Team

Roosters

Scored 14 points
Raiders

Away Team

Raiders

Scored 8 points

Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network

"It is what it is. We'll focus on our footy and we'll be all right."

Prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was the other Rooster to have the ball stolen in round 21 when John Bateman reefed it free, and he said coach Trent Robinson wasn't impressed about the number of steals in that game.

"One of them got me and I wasn't happy," Waerea-Hargreaves said.

"I think for us it's training and preparing for the strip. That means trying to stop it by being aware there are certain players in their team that go for it.

"It's a hell of a tactic so we've got to be better. When you're carrying the ball the last thing you're thinking about is someone stripping it.

"So when you're carrying it, just be more aware that it could happen. You need to just hold onto it tighter, tucking it tighter, or holding another defender."

Ben Cummins, who will be the lead referee for Sunday night's Telstra Premiership decider, conceded it is a tough part of the game to adjudicate.

"We train obviously by looking how players communicate with each other, or how some guys get in there and set-up for it. You can see it happening before you," Cummins said.

"Obviously there's only a fraction of a second between when they're in there and when they strip it. You've just got to be ready."

NRL head of football Graham Annesley said he supported the newer interpretation, which was introduced in 2018 but exploded in practice this season, aside from the difficulty in officiating it.

"I don't have a massive problem with it. It has put some additional uncertainty in the game," Annesley said.

"We've seen some clubs, not just the Raiders, some players get very good at effecting those one-on-one strips. It does change the momentum in a game when it happens."

Roosters prop Siosiua Taukeiaho hasn't had the ball stripped at all this year and seemed to take a dim view of the tactic.

"We don't have the mindset to go out there and try and strip the ball," Taukeiaho told NRL.com.

"We're confident with our defence, our systems, our combo tackles, slowing the ruck down. We don't go out there and try and strip the ball.

"Obviously Canberra are top of stripping the ball but not everyone does it in Canberra, there's certain players that do it all the time.

"For us, whoever's running the ball we just have to be aware of it, protect the ball. You have to protect the ball all the time if you're running the ball."

If the team was focused on the Raiders' stripping tactics it might impact on how much they looked to pass but that won't be the case, he added.

"Our game is about building the game, power running through the middle and setting up the game. If it takes 20 minutes it takes 20 minutes, [if we have to wait until] the 21st minute that's when we might start shifting it out.

"They have that tactic of stripping the ball, we're not going to let them change our game plan of how we play. All we have to do is protect the ball.

"Our main focus is our tackling, getting the right principles, slowing the ruck down. If we get that done we should be able to beat any team."

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