According to experienced campaigners Daniel Tupou and Drew Hutchison, the Sydney Roosters are well on track to make a strong imprint on the competition as the finals loom ever closer.
The Tricolours will have their opportunity to test themselves against top-four opposition in Penrith and South Sydney in the next month, and the duo believe that their recent four-match winning streak has them heading in the right direction for the post-season.
Both Tupou and Hutchison say that they are looking towards testing themselves against the second-placed Panthers this Saturday night.
“They’re at the top of the table for a reason,” Hutchison said.
“They’ve been a consistent side for the past four or five years and we prepare for a game like they’re full strength. I’m not too sure who is playing for them this week and I don’t think that really bothers the way that we’re going to prepare for this game.
“Every game that we play is vital for the end of the season but these games you want to be playing in against the top four sides. You want to be competing.
Round 21 Media - Daniel Tupou
“I speak for our team - we’re looking forward to this week – I know I am. It’s going to be a good test and something we’re looking forward to.
“We want to put our best foot forward to get a win this weekend.”
“We’re just taking it one week at a time and each day as it comes,” added Tupou.
“Our only focus is this weekend and we’ve just had a big session which was good to get out of the system. I feel like we’re heading in the right direction at the moment and I’m looking forward to this weekend.
“It won’t be easy. They’ll definitely come out firing and it will be a good challenge for both of us and it’s a challenge that I’m looking forward to.
“It’s go-time on Saturday.”
While recent injuries have hampered the Roosters' backline over the last fortnight, both Tupou and Hutchison welcomed the addition of utility Adam Keighran to the mix - who had a stellar game at centre against the Parramatta Eels - as well as returning Rooster Dale Copley, who was signed earlier in the week.
It won’t be easy. They’ll definitely come out firing and it will be a good challenge for both of us and it’s a challenge that I’m looking forward to.Daniel Tupou On taking on the Penrith Panthers this weekend
“It’s a huge boost for us," Hutchison said of Copley's return.
“He’s such a quality player – he’s been quality at a number of clubs – and I think the thing that helps is that he’s been at the Roosters before.
“He knows what the Club is about, he knows how important playing for this Club is, and I’m looking forward to playing alongside him.”
“He’s awesome, he’s obviously played a bit of hooker but at the moment he’s playing centre with me,” Tupou said of Keighran.
“We’ve been combining well at the moment. It was a good start from the weekend, he’s a confident player and I have a lot of trust playing outside him. He’s only going to get better and it’s a good step to where we’re heading.
“It was only his first day yesterday but it was great to see Dale again back in the squad. He’s experienced and he’s played about the same amount of games as I have.
“He’s got leadership also and it’s good to see a familiar face.”
Round 21 Media - Drew Hutchison
Back in the starting side for just over a month now, Hutchison is relishing his time in the Red, White and Blue following time on the sidelines, with his most immediate goal improving each and every time he steps on the field.
“These last few weeks have been awesome to get back playing,” he said.
“One of my goals was to come back and continually play better and work on my own performances but the way the team has been playing has been really helpful as well for me to come back in and do my role.
“The team has been awesome these last few weeks, and you can see with the way that we’ve been playing that we’ve been enjoying it. A little goal for me at the moment is just getting better each week."
Tupou, meanwhile, has appreciated seeing the rise and development of the Club's rookies - many of whom have found themselves as regular first-graders in their inaugural season in the top grade.
“There’s been a few names so far," the veteran winger said.
"Egan Butcher has come through and stepped up massively – and Sammy Walker is playing out of his skin at the moment for us.
“It’s great to see and the confidence that they bring on and off the field is great to see as a senior player. They’re playing really well and really training well. I know they’re only getting better which is the scary thing.
“It’s good signs for us, we’re gelling well as a team and we’re heading in the right direction. We’re doing really well at the moment and I feel like we’re only going to get better.”
With Platinum Partner Unibet set to forego their place on the famous Roosters' jersey in place of Gotcha4Life in order to raise awareness for mental health this week, both Tupou and Hutchison were quick to praise the move.
Here at the Roosters it’s been a big theme – especially over the last couple of weeks. We’ve been away from family and loved ones so we’re checking in on each other, and the people we’ve got here at the Club have been massive. I’m really glad that the Club is getting behind this.Drew Hutchison On mental wellbeing
“It’s a great initiative,” Tupou stated.
“Mental health is very important and it’s massive for them to jump on board. There’s a lot of support there.
“It’s massive for the Club to have that on the back of the jerseys this weekend."
“It’s such a special thing for the Club to do,” Hutchison added.
“In this uncertain time that we’re in, there’s no better time to check on people and make sure everyone’s doing alright.
“Here at the Roosters it’s been a big theme – especially over the last couple of weeks. We’ve been away from family and loved ones so we’re checking in on each other, and the people we’ve got here at the Club have been massive.
“I’m really glad that the Club is getting behind this.”
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