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The Best We've Ever Seen: Jake Friend

The defensive cornerstone of the Sydney Roosters for over a decade, Jake Friend did it all as captain, teammate and Premiership-winner in a glittering yet unheralded career that saw him become one of the finest no.9s in Club history. 

Hailing from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Friend played his junior Rugby League in Noosa before being scouted by Club Legend Arthur Beetson as a fifteen-year-old, flying through the grades at record speed and graduating from SG Ball to NRL in a matter of months.

Name: Jake Harold Friend
Nickname: Friendy, Nug
DOB: 01/02/1990
First-Grade Debut: Round 16, 2008 vs Bulldogs
Roosters Player No. 1083
First-Grade Games for Club: 264
First-Grade Points for Club: 109 from 27 tries and one field goal
Premierships: 3 (2013, 2018, 2019)
Representative Career: 2 matches for Prime Minister's XIII (2011, 2016)
1 Test for Australia (2016)
1 match for NRL All Stars (2017)
3 matches for Queensland State of Origin (2020)
Individual Accolades: Jack Gibson Medallist (2011, 2016)
World Club Challenge Man of the Match (2014)
Ashton-Collier Medal (2014)
Sydney Roosters Captain (2015-2021)
James Mathews Clubman of the Year (2018)
Ron McAuliffe Medal (2020)

Making his NRL debut in Round 16 of the 2008 season at the age of eighteen, the crafty young rake played five matches in his debut season before cementing himself as a player with great potential the following year.

But the career he would carve out over the next decade was in jeopardy heading into the 2010 season, as his contract was torn up after a number of off-field incidents saw him removed from the NRL squad and whisked away to a full-time job at a Surry Hills cafe. Despite the setback, a determined Friend was able to earn his stripes through hard work and dedication and was recalled to the Club in mid-2010, basing his game over those very same qualities he developed off the field.

From there, Friend's career in the famous Tricolours blossomed - playing an integral part in the side's rise from wooden spooners to Grand Finalists that very season in a sensational reversal of form.

In 2011, Friend claimed his first Jack Gibson Medal as Players' Player and his representative debut for the Prime Minister's XIII at the conclusion of the season.

With the arrival of Head Coach Trent Robinson in 2013, Friend became the side's defensive leader as they completed a six-shutout record, and was a catalyst in the Club's 13th Premiership.

Friend furthered his credentials and ownership of the no.9 jersey as he produced a man of the match performance in the World Club Challenge against Wigan, and did so again on Anzac Day in 2014, claiming the prestigious Ashton-Collier Medal.

Named as Captain following the retirement of Anthony Minichiello, Friend thrived under his newfound responsibility, highlighted by a second Jack Gibson Medal, representative duties for PM's XIII and NRL All-Stars while culminating with an appearance in the green and gold of Australia. 

No doubt the dynamic rake's peak in the representative arena came in the 2020 State of Origin series, helping to guide an underdog Queensland side to an emphatic series win and being bestowed with the Ron McAuliffe Medallist as Players' Player.

Stamping his mark as a big-game player for Easts, Friend saved his best performances for the biggest stage, playing a near-perfect match in the 2018 Grand Final and overcoming an injury-riddled season to feature in the 2019 decider, where he was credited for conducting the defence as the Bondi Wall held firm in a critical period of the match.

Friend etched his name into Club folklore even further in season 2020, becoming just the fourth player to appear 250 times for the Roosters alongside Mitchell Aubusson, Anthony Minichiello and Luke Ricketson.

Jake Friend Career Highlights

Retiring in 2021 in his fourteenth season in the Red, White and Blue, the hard-working hooker finished his career as the fourth most-capped Rooster with 263 games, and 121 appearances as captain, second to only Brad Fittler with 199. 

Friend was honoured in 2021 with the Roosters' Round 11 match against the Brisbane Broncos dedicated to his career as the 'Celebrate Jake' match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The wily no.9 was also immortalised on the Club Legends' Mural in Waverley, appropriately alongside fellow 2018 and 2019 Premiership captain Boyd Cordner the man who first brought him to the Club, Arthur Beetson, his first NRL head coach Brad Fittler and Anthony Minichiello, who he took over the Club captaincy from. 

With 264 first-grade appearances, 3 Premierships, 4 Grand Final Appearances, 3 World Club Challenges, 4 Minor Premierships  - all for the Roosters - and a cabinet full of representative jerseys, his illustrious career is one that will be celebrated for years to come.

A fearless leader on the field and a beloved clubman off it, Jake Friend is the definition of a warrior. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour 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.