JWH primed for Bunnies rivalry
After missing both games against the Rabbitohs last season, it will not take much for Sydney Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to be up for one of the biggest debry fixtures on the rugby league calendar as the Roosters look for their best start to a season in two decades on Thursday night.
Not since 1996 have the Tricolours won four games in a row to begin a season, but the history between the Roosters and Rabbitohs suggests the chance to go 4-0 will be no easy feat with the Bunnies rejuvenated after many predicted they would struggle with the loss of Australian international Greg Inglis in Round 1.
The early return of Adam Reynolds from appendicitis has proved a godsend for Michael Maguire's side, and the contest between Reynolds and Mitchell Pearce shapes potentially as an early season battle for the New South Wales halfback spot.
If that's not enough to entice fans, the bitter departure of former Rabbitohs five-eighth Luke Keary to the Bondi outfit adds further spice to the contest, with Cody Walker's form in the No.6 jersey setting up another key match-up.
"It's easy to get up for that game," Waerea-Hargreaves told NRL.com.
"The rivalry we have with the Bunnies is strong and it's a short turnaround so we'll recover and prepare for a huge game on Thursday.
"We've had some big clashes over the years and this time round it will be no different.
"It's just about passion… both sides are passionate about the area we live in and because we are so close we've had that rivalry there for so many years.
"For us it's just about worrying about the positives we've been building for the last three weeks."
Rather than speak about his former club in the lead-up to the clash, Keary is set to let his performance do the talking on the field and Waerea-Hargreaves insists his new teammate will not let emotions get the better of him come Thursday night.
"Knowing him, he's got a cool, calm head so he'll prepare well and treat it like any other game," Waerea-Hargreaves said.
"He's going well and there are still things he can improve on but it's still early in the season too.
"He hasn't said much but I know he'll be looking forward to it, and we'll be there for him.
"They're [Keary and Pearce] going good, they've only played three games together but it feels like more.
"The more footy they do play the more confident in combinations and style that they learn about each others game."
With both outfits coming off Round 2 wins and five-day turnarounds, the Kiwi international believes the 80-minute performance against the flamboyant Panthers will hold the Roosters in good stead for whatever the Bunnies have in store for them.
"The style of footy the Panthers throw at you keeps you honest and there's no shortcuts in the middle with the way their style of footy," Waerea-Hargreaves said.
"We defended their attack well and came up with the big play when it was needed, that was the pleasing part and what we are focusing on each week.
"It was a good test for us and the boys just kept turning up at pivotal stages so it was a huge team effort all-round and we want it to continue now."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM