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Just Work Hard: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves' Journey to 300

One of the most polarising and decorated players in Sydney Roosters history, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves reaches yet another milestone in his illustrious career this week – 300 games in the NRL.

The no-nonsense forward has always been in the conversation when it comes to the greatest Roosters of all time, and for good reason.

In Search of a Home

From his humble beginnings as a teenager from New Zealand hopping between hostel accommodation and his run-down car, the young tearaway arrived on Australian shores for an opportunity in rugby union, before finding himself in the thirteen-man code.

As a vagabond searching for his next resting place, he soon enough landed in Bondi, a refuge he would quickly turn into a home for the next fifteen years.

As the Roosters looked to reinvent themselves following their first wooden spoon in over three decades, it was hard for Members and fans not to stand up and notice a spiky-haired tyro (with blonde tips) who ran without fear and with plenty of conviction.

This kid had something they hadn’t seen in years. Opposition fans hated him, but Roosters fans embraced him with open arms. 

And he made an immediate impact on the side's fortunes, featuring in the Grand Final in his very first season at the Club. While the Tricolours didn’t lift the trophy on that afternoon, it wouldn’t be his last time taking the field on the first Sunday of October.

JWH - The Enforcer

Fire and Brimstone

Every great side has a leader who isn’t afraid to push boundaries and tiptoe between the lines of sanity – and the old warhorse has played his fair share of matches as the villain. But that’s exactly how he’s wanted it.

The numbers don’t lie – he’s spent a total of 23 weeks on the sidelines thanks to 32 charges over his career. But for the time he’s spent off the field, he’s added tenfold while on it.

In his third season in Moore Park, he claimed the Club’s most prodigious award; the Jack Gibson Medal as player of 2012, as well as the James Mathews Clubman of the Year – which he took home in 2017 as well.

Under Trent Robinson, Waerea-Hargreaves grew as a leader of the forward pack, starting in every match through the 2013 season, including the famous Grand Final triumph.

It wasn’t a surprise to see the side’s fortunes wane in 2016 while he was on the sidelines nursing the dreaded ACL rupture, but he bounced back stronger than ever as an instrumental figure in the Tricolours’ conquest for back-to-back titles.

One of the finest performances from any Rooster in a decider came in the 2019 Grand Final, where he led from the front, topping the side's tackle count with 41 and adding 185 metres in an almighty 57-minute stint. 

Hard work and dedication have always been Waerea-Hargreaves’ core values, but he’s always added an element of controlled aggression that few can harness.

Jekyll With Hyde

Then of course, is the man off the field.

How can one be so despised and feared by players and fans alike on the field, to being beloved and ‘soft’ – as described by his teammates – off of it?

When he crosses the white line, the flick switches. He sees red. Ferocious and aggressive on field. Always in the thick of things and the centre of attention when tempers flare. He's a colossus willing to do whatever it takes to get his team over the line in the heat of battle.

And when the 80 minutes are up, Jekyll becomes Hyde.  

Gentle and caring off of the field. A real family man, and even a bit of a comedian according to those who know him best.

That also goes for the youngsters in the Roosters squad, and especially so for his fellow countrymen who talk about his fathering influence as being ‘like an old uncle from back home’.

The Last of the Mo-Hitmen

Never shy of putting on a huge hit or running from the back fence, Waerea-Hargreaves is an endangered species of Rugby League.

Few purist front rowers have survived the changing landscape of the game in recent years; a faster, more dynamic style suited to fleet-footed fullbacks and athletic front rowers who better resemble NFL linebackers than your traditional, pie-eating bookend.  

But Waerea-Hargreaves is an exception to the rule; evolving with the demands each season brings while maintaining his unique, old-school characteristics that make him equally feared and revered.

Just ask Penrith’s Danny Galea, who still has a JWH-sized indent in his chest after his brutal shot in the second week of the 2012 season.

It’s a big reason why he stands alone at the summit as the oldest player in the NRL at 35 years of age.

The elder statesman has now set the standard for front rowers in the Red, White and Blue. With the likes of Lindsay Collins, Spencer Leniu and Terrell May under his command, the pedigree of bookends is looking stronger than ever.

Leaving Legacy

When speaking of champion front rowers of the illustrious Club, Arthur Beetson is front and centre, and rightly so.

Pre-war figure Ray Stehr – who has won the most Premierships of any in the famous Tricolours – also comes to mind.

Even 21st-century cult heroes Adrian Morley, Jason Cayless, Sam Moa and Siosiua Taukeiaho are frequently brought up in conversations drenched in Reschs.

But after sixteen seasons, four Grand Finals, three Premiership titles and as many World Club Challenge trophies, coupled with the opportunity to break the Club’s appearance record, there’s 300 reasons why Jared Waerea-Hargreaves might just be the best of the lot.

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.