It was the biggest moment of the off-season: the day Roosters coach Trent Robinson decided to take the plunge and sign Cooper Cronk. It has been a masterstroke. But it led to favourite son Mitchell Pearce making an emotion-charged exit from the club he’s been a part of since his teenage days. Pearce didn’t want to take up the offer of learning from Cronk.
After a stellar season with the Knights, Pearce will today watch the Roosters in the grand final with a knot in his stomach. He is honest enough to admit it won’t be easy.
No hard feelings: Mitchell Pearce is mobbed by Roosters before he made his exit from the Bondi club.
‘‘It’s going to be a strange feeling, no doubt,’’ he said. ‘‘Yeah, it’s really mixed for me. Odd. I think when the boys run out there, I’ll be a bit funny. You are talking about some of my best mates in the world. These are guys that I grew up with … spent so much of my life with. Every day, you know. We had some good and tough times and you want to win a grand final together.
‘‘I am so happy for them to get that chance, and Cooper has done really well to get them there. I don’t have any hard feelings towards him or the club at all. What happened to me at the Roosters is footy.’’
At the time, Cronk went out of his way to convince Pearce to stay.
‘‘I don’t really know Cooper well at all, but he was good about things when it was all going on,’’ Peace said. ‘‘But we haven’t really talked much since. You know, I understand why the club wanted him and it’s turned out great for me at the Knights.’’
Pearce has a strong view on who the Roosters need to fire if they are to win today’s grand final.
‘‘For mine, with or without Cooper, the Roosters main man is Luke Keary,’’ Pearce said. ‘‘Cooper is hurt and, when that happened last week against Souths, I thought Luke was just outstanding the way he stepped up. He is just such a calm customer.
‘‘He reminds me of Jimmy Maloney in that way. He will turn up and approach the grand final with a calm manner.
‘‘He has won a grand final before and I don’t know why he can’t do it again.’’
While on Pearce, he is too humble to boast about his remarkable effort to grab 23 points and almost take out the Dally M, despite missing 10 games this season.
‘‘I think we are building nicely as a team,’’ he said asked when about his season.
Big names in line to rule the roost — if Nick goes
The man who is the Sydney Roosters, Nick Politis, knows his days are coming to an end as club chairman. After 25 years in the position, no one wants him to quit and those who know him best say that he won’t.
The mail I’m getting is that, even when he stands down, he will still be the club patron. The man who many think would be great in the position is former Nine boss David Gyngell.
Mark Bouris is known to want the position, and he certainly has the clout and passion to do it. There is also a smokey for the job – hard-working board member and retailer Andrew Crawford. He is deeply involved in the Roosters and dedicates time to the club.
No Johns, no problems for Chooks
The effort of the Roosters coaching staff to guide the club to the grand final is even more impressive when you consider one of their best assets, the eighth Immortal and Newcastle great Andrew Johns, quit quietly a few weeks back.
Brains trust: Andrew Johns with Trent Robinson during a Roosters training session in March.
Johns was the team’s halves coach but resigned from the role to care for his partner, Kate Kendall, who was pregnant and having a few health issues.
The Roosters ploughed on and made it through and Johns is now a proud dad for the third time.
Interestingly, Johns’ brother, Matthew, has always had a relationship with the Storm and he has worked with their attack.
Banned and deliver
Roosters superstar Latrell Mitchell spent a day moping about his suspension but then spent two weeks ripping into his training with a winning mindset.
‘‘The thought was simple in his mind,’’ explained coach Trent Robinson.
‘‘We wanted him to think he was training for a grand final.’’
The results are impressive.
He is looking leaner than he has for most of the season, including when he dropped 12 kilograms in the off-season.
Controversial Raiders centre Joey Leilua doesn’t care what people think of him, but he wants to make it clear that he didn’t snub the Dally Ms. He was the surprise choice as centre of the year, his second triumph in the past three years, but he wasn’t there to collect the honour. He and his wife had gone to collect their sons, who were staying with their grandparents in Brisbane.
Not an awards snub: Joey Leilua didn’t think he would win a Dally M this year.
‘‘Two months ago my baby boys went up to Brisbane to be with their grandparents – I wanted to have a clear head and be focused when we were making the run for the finals,’’ he said. ‘‘And I really didn’t think I was any chance of getting an award at the Dally Ms.
‘‘I was humble and shocked because there are many good centres out there. So my wife and I went to Brisbane to get our boys – they are our world. I was missing them like crazy.’’
Manly stand-off continues
Trent Barrett continues to make sure he is fulfilling his duties as Sea Eagles coach, despite his widely publicised desire to get out of the northern beaches club. He attended the Dally M awards and sat at a table that included Daly Cherry-Evans and Jake Trbojevic – two of his biggest backers.
Manly continue to look at Michael Maguire as coach. And, as we told you a few weeks back, Brisbane are his pick and Manly would be an option.
There have been plenty of negative headlines for NRL players in recent weeks and it seems that poor behaviour on the drink isn’t limited to the players.
Fox Sports chief league reporter James Hooper will appear in Downing Centre court on October 4 on charges related to destroying and damaging property. It was the result of big night gone wrong.
He is accused of damaging a car and was found in a bad way on the car bonnet by the owner. He was not arrested at the time and taken by ambulance to hospital. He was later served with a court attendance notice.
Those who have talked to Hooper say that he has no recollection of the matter and he knows he has done the wrong thing. He is doing something about it. He told his employers about the incident.
I have been made aware of the incident and the charges by a host of players, who clearly think there is a double standard in these matters – that the media are quick to rip into players, but they protect their own. Since the incident, Hooper has sensibly stayed out of the firing line when it comes to matters involving bad player behaviour.
He has kept his strong opinions to football and has not been judging players’ private lives.
Coaches' union reunion
Australia’s three most successful Wallabies coaches – Alan Jones (1984 grand slam and 1986 Bledisloe Cup), Bob Dwyer (1991 World Cup) and Rod Macqueen (1999 World Cup) – have agreed to have lunch with four punters at Darlinghurst’s Verde restaurant in an effort to raise money for the rugby-based charity Cauliflower Club.
The charity, which raises funds for recreational and sporting equipment to support those suffering from permanent disabilities, is holding its annual lunch at the Hyatt Regency Sydney on Friday, October 12. Tickets are $225 and bookings can be made at cauliflowerclub.org.au.
The speakers will be three rugby league figures who learnt their trade playing rugby union: Wally Lewis, Ricky Stuart and Michael O’Connor.
Danny Weidler is a reporter with Channel Nine news.
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