Sydney Roosters Head Coach Trent Robinson has praised milestone man Jared Waerea-Hargreaves ahead of his 250th match in the Tricolours ahead of his side's Round 20 match against the Parramatta Eels in Mackay.
The Roosters' mentor also touched on his side's resilience and adaptability throughout the season, the latest on Billy Smith and gave a touching tribute to Premiership-winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
With Waerea-Hargreaves set to become the fifth most-capped Rooster of all time on Thursday night, Robinson lauded the career that the Kiwi enforcer has paved since arriving at the Club in 2010, highlighting the presence he has brought to the NRL.
“We’ve had a chuckle in the last couple of days about how many people dislike Jared when they watch him play if they support another team and then when they meet him how much they love him,” he said.
“Jazz is a big-hearted man and everyone who comes across him knows what such a great guy he is, but the other side – the reason they don’t like him, and the reason why Roosters supporters love him – is because of the physicality.
“He’s played 250 games; he’s gone after opponents, he’s a true front rower. He’s gone from a firebrand playing those early six games at Manly and then coming across. He was wild, he had earrings and dyed hair and weird haircuts and he had all of those things going for him as a young guy, and he’s just developed.
Coach's Media - Round 20
“I loved watching him play as a young guy and I love watching him play as a leader of our game. I was lucky enough to sit on the sideline (on Friday) and hear the physicality of Jared. You just know notice how physical the man is when he plays. He asks the question of his opponents each time he plays and that’s why we love him.
“We’ve lost some of our leaders and you think about what the difference is about 2016 and this year is that we had some leaders that decided to carry us through the last couple of months and that’s been Jared.
“That’s the test of a real leader. You get lots of guys who are in teams but when a couple of those senior players fall away they’re just not as strong.
"Whereas that’s the test of a real leader and a man who says ‘I’ve got you. I’m going to do something, I’m going to play more minutes, I’m going to take more carries and I’m going to be more physical’, and he’s done that.
“It’s wonderful to have him."
Coming up against the fourth-placed Parramatta Eels opens up the opportunity for the Red, White and Blue to stake a claim for the top four with just two competition points separating the sides heading into Round 20 - but Robinson says that his Roosters are solely focused on improving their game and playing a more consistent brand of football.
Within a game, either between games with injuries or within the game and being able to play different roles, I really like the intelligence and the adaptability of the players and the team and also just the spirit.Trent Robinson Roosters Head Coach
“We had a decent game the last couple of games but we want to go and attack this game with some vigour. A big thing for us was recovering," Robinson said.
“I feel like we’re getting more consistent week on week. We’re missing a couple of guys there but we’re looking forward to starting the round on Thursday night, going after some footy that we want to play and getting round two against Parramatta.
“We haven’t talked about it. You can feel that it’s there and we know that the spoils are there but that’s not a driver for us. Sometimes it is, there’s such a fire to improve our footy and get more out of ourselves, and we’re playing a certain style that we’re heading towards.
“That’s the most important thing for us. We know the situation, there’s no difference on that. We know we’re close there and there’s an opportunity but the fight to get the most out of our footy at the moment is at the forefront.
“The big focus is on how we play. The rewards will come if we play well enough."
As Billy Smith and Matt Ikuvalu prepare for surgery after succumbing to injuries on Friday night, the three-time Premiership winning coach was disappointed in the results for the pair but expressed his pride when it came to his side showing their true colours when faced with adversity.
“It has been really disappointing for him,” Robinson conceded.
“It’s moved around his body a bit over the last couple of years through no fault of his. He’s just a young guy and his body is starting to adapt to NRL but there are also just some ligament issues that we want to dig a bit deeper into.
Round 20 Media - Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
“We want to help him. He’s got a big future and we’re just going to have to repair this foot and go again. It’s the way it has been but spirits are high and it is the next guy in who will fill in that role and go and do the job.
“The adaptability of the team has really been tested and they’ve answered the question on multiple occasions this year.
“Within a game, either between games with injuries or within the game and being able to play different roles, I really like the intelligence and the adaptability of the players and the team and also just the spirit.
“It’s hard when you come off a field that you’re really disappointed to see Billy in that situation again. Iku (Matt Ikuvalu) who has worked his way into first-grade and has been doing a great job scoring tries and carrying out in the backfield.
“That’s why I’m really proud of the way they’ve gone about playing. That’s a credit to the way of how they’ve adapted. The fight is there. We’re not having a down year but I know these guys are adding some tools that will propel us forward.
We’ve lost some of our leaders and you think about what the difference is about 2016 and this year is that we had some leaders that decided to carry us through the last couple of months and that’s been Jared.Trent Robinson On Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
“There are different questions that are getting asked, there are different combinations and they get it done."
In positive off-field news, young forward Nat Butcher has been nominated for the Ken Stephens Community Award, a well-deserved effort according to his Head Coach.
“He’s a caring guy. He’s the complete opposite of Victor Radley,” he joked.
“The two close mates we’ve got yin and yang there and Butch is the real high moral code. He’s a real honest man and he’s a real giver.
“That’s really good news to hear for a guy like Butch. He wouldn’t mention it, he would go about it and just do his job.
“What he looks on the field is what he is off-field.”
Earlier in the week, former Rooster and 2013 Premiership-winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck announced he would prematurely leave Rugby League to return to Rugby Union, and Robinson had plenty of time to reminisce on his glittering career, which of course began at the Roosters.
“I saw that this morning and I thought ‘that’s the last we’ve seen of him in our game’, but then also ‘I can’t wait to watch Rog go next’," he said.
“I got to spend a fair bit of quality time with Rog and I can’t wait to watch him play. He came and played one of his early under 20s games in 2012, the ball went out and he tried to throw it back in, so he’s definitely a rugby union player coming across to Rugby League.
“He’s going back to the sport he grew up with and he’s going back as a great representative of what Rugby League can do for a young player and now a leader.
“I can’t wait to watch him play.”
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