Trent Robinson has a blunt warning for detractors who think injuries could derail the Sydney Roosters’ NRL premiership defence: Prepare to be proven wrong.
Both Victor Radley and Sam Verrills will undergo surgery on their season-ending knee injuries on Friday.
Lock Isaac Liu will also miss Thursday night’s clash against Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium with broken ribs, leaving the Tri-colours middle with their sternest test in seasons.
Dominant since the competition’s resumption, the Roosters have won five straight and outscored their opponents 179-40.
But there is some argument the injuries could bring the Roosters back to the field, something Robinson is not concerned about.
“They (critics) can think what they want,” Robinson said.
“That’s good, there is enough commentary out there.
“But we’ll deal with it in our own way and we know what our squad is capable of.
“People will judge us on how we are playing. We understand we have lost two really good players and good people.
“But that won’t stop us. We’ll keep moving forward and developing our game over the next few months.”
How they manage that development while still playing a similar style of football is the next challenge though.
Radley has been a key ballplayer at No.13 this year, having engaged the defensive line 47 times before passing or kicking.
That figure makes for the second most line engagements of all front or back-rowers in the NRL, marginally behind Jake Trbojevic’s 49.
The Roosters’ next highest in that category are Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves with five each, understandable given that is the role Radley fills.
But Robinson said the Roosters will still find a way to play their way of football, while not asking replacement lock Nat Butcher to mimic Radley.
“Nat Butcher is a top-end player who has proven that over a couple of years,” Robinson said.
“I see Nat being himself. He is a great player in his own right and he will continue to do that.
“I don’t want anybody to be anybody else.”
Meanwhile Verrills’ injury threatens to change the way Jake Friend is managed in a year where there are no breaks or byes.
Friend said this week his body was up to playing the full 80 minutes each week, but Robinson indicated he could be managed at some point in 2020.
The Roosters have ‘Mr Fix It’ Mitchell Aubusson on, while 19-year-old Freddy Lussick – brother of Darcy and Joey – is also on their extended bench and could be an option this year.
“Jake plays a certain style of footy, he’s played years where he has played 27 games in a season,” Robinson said.
“But I also understand we will play other players in that position as well at times.
“Freddy is a traditional hooker so his development is important.
“(Aubo)’s not adverse to it, but he’s not a traditional stand-in hooker. He’s a replacement hooker.”