Roosters troops back to defy NRL critics

Trent Robinson has put it on his Sydney Roosters players to defy the critics and prove they are not over the hill in Friday night’s NRL semi-final against Canberra.

The Roosters received a massive boost on Thursday morning, with Robinson confirming both Jake Friend (concussion) and Sonny Bill Williams (neck) had been deemed fit to play.

But the sceptics are still circling as their pursuit of a rare NRL three-peat hits a crucial point at the SCG

Last week’s 29-28 loss to Penrith made it 89 points conceded in two weeks, the most in more than a decade at the club.

The 28 unanswered points they conceded in 35 minutes against the Panthers also prompted the likes of Phil Gould to claim they are finally on a decline after two straight titles.

Others such as Gorden Tallis have tipped the club to go out in straight sets, questioning how much was left in the tank after being the league’s best for several years.

Robinson would not buy into the debate ahead of the match, but instead put it on his players to prove otherwise on the field.

“That’s opinion,” Robinson said.

“My job is not to respond during the week, our job is to respond on Friday.

“My focus is on getting the best out of our group.”

Friday’s clash is a new challenge.

Last week’s defeat marked their first finals loss since the 2017 preliminary finals, while they haven’t had to play in week two since 2015.

Only one side has won the premiership without having a week off in the past 13 seasons, with the chance to rest even more crucial in such a chaotic year.

But Robinson is unfazed, having managed his roster throughout the final rounds of the competition and taking heart from the Roosters’ late comeback last week.

“I don’t believe in there’s only one way,” he said.

“You have to execute how your path is going to look in 2020. And now we’ve just moved on.”

Friend’s inclusion will be crucial in turning things around.

While Williams is the big name, the Roosters hooker is one of their most reliable in defence and the plug they need in the middle of the field.

“It’s always key when you have senior players ready and combinations you have had for a long time ready,” Robinson said.

“There’s a few different things, there is the leadership, the consistency of combinations there throughout the spine

“And there is the absolute selfless work he does for others. So I am looking forward to get that back.”

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