Sam Walker, Drew Hutchison and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves were full of praise for their side's victory on Anzac Day, highlighting the resolve of the team under adversity as the catalyst for the win.
In just his fourth NRL game, eighteen-year-old Walker had a standout performance, scoring a try and having a hand in a number of his side's four-pointers as the Roosters claimed a 34-10 victory in their Wartime Jersey.
The Ashton-Collier Spirit of Anzac Medallist credited his coach and the man whose jersey he took over - Luke Keary - as his biggest influences.
“The Club has been amazing for me," he said.
"Robbo (Head Coach Trent Robinson) has given me a simple role; I know what I have to do on the field, and having that basis of needing to know what I need to do has put me in great stead. If I do my job then the people around me will be able to do theirs as well.
Round 8 Media - Sam Walker
“Luke (Keary) has been huge for me in the way he has helped me develop into that halfback role. Every day he’ll come up to me and check how I’m going and give me a few pointers on how to run the team. I’ve really idolised him over the last couple of weeks and how he plays."
Walker's halves partner Hutchison and front row teammate Waerea-Hargreaves were equally impressed with the youngster's performance, not only in the Anzac Day Cup match but in his first-grade career so far.
It was a hell of a game. I’m still feeling it today but it was well worth it.Jared Waerea-Hargreaves On the Roosters' emphatic Anzac Day Cup victory
“It’s pretty special isn’t it?” Hutchison said.
“Yesterday everyone saw what kind of a player he is, and I think for us at the Roosters we’ve seen how good he is for the last couple of years. The confidence for him to go out and play the way he does, it’s a really good thing to be a part of and I’m really happy to play alongside him.
“We all see how good he is on the field but we see how good of a bloke he is off it. He deserves his chance, everyone is going to see how good he will be and the best thing about him is he knows he has improvement and he’s working towards that."
“It was his fourth or fifth NRL game and to play the way he did – we’ve been saying for a number of weeks now at training that it’s really good to see that excitement and for him to deliver on a big occasion like Anzac Day," Waerea-Hargreaves said.
“It's great to see him play the way he trains but he’s a calm head and you want to try and harness it in a way. At the same time, you want to let an eighteen-year-old play footy. He’s creative and backed himself to play that ad-lib footy we know he can play. He’s just going to grow from there."
Round 8 Media - Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Facing plenty of adversity with James Tedesco taken from the field late in the first half with a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) which was then compounded by a sin-binning, the defensive resolve from the Tricolours was a highlight for Roosters Members and supporters alike, and the three key men were impressed with the way the side took it in their stride.
“That’s what we pride ourselves on," Hutchison said.
“We know the way we want to play but when things don’t go our way, it’s about turning up and yesterday we really did that and that was the pleasing thing."
“The way we started, both teams were a little bit frantic," Walker added.
"But once we calmed down a little bit as the game went on, we eased our way into it and once it started swinging in our favour we really took advantage and we came home strong there."
“For the team to just adapt the way we did and bring on (Matt) Ikuvalu, there was no fuss - we played and we just went on with what we needed to do," Waerea-Hargreaves stated.
The injury he had last year was devastating and he and Rads (Victor Radley) have worked so hard to get back. To see what they bring to this team is pretty impressive and the way they’ve handled it is equally as impressive.Drew Hutchison On Sam Verrills' return from injury
“It was a hell of a performance from Joey (Manu) to adapt and go at fullback there. He’s done it for us a few times, BMoz (Brett Morris) has done that a few times as well.
“They’ve (Dragons) proven all year that their style of play is very aggressive, very brutal. It was nice to see we could match it in certain areas and at the same time play some footy that we know we can play.
"It was a hell of a game. I’m still feeling it today but it was well worth it."
The return of Sam Verrills in the no.9 jersey was a welcome one for Hutchison and Walker, who cited how seamlessly the crafty rake fit into the side and even set up a crucial try for Lindsay Collins midway through the second half.
His fellow spine members were full of praise of the 22-year-old.
“He was enormous," Walker beamed.
Round 8 Media - Drew Hutchison
"He’s got a calm head and he’s won a Grand Final and the way he just came onto the field, it was as if he never left. He took a bit of responsibility off me and took control in that middle area, and I knew I could just go to the back and control my area there."
“He’s awesome. He’s another one – he’s such a great bloke," Hutchison said.
“The injury he had last year was devastating and he and Rads (Victor Radley) have worked so hard to get back. To see what they bring to this team is pretty impressive and the way they’ve handled it is equally as impressive.
"I always love playing alongside Sammy and I’m sure everyone else does as well."
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