Roosters coach Trent Robinson says the premiers are yet to find top gear in 2014, ahead of their final round NRL showdown against arch-rivals Souths.
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson believes the premiers are yet to play their best football in 2014 – but are getting there.
Ahead of Thursday’s final round NRL showdown with bitter arch rivals South Sydney, Robinson said the Roosters have learnt from shock losses to Cronulla and Newcastle, and an off-field incident involving halfback Mitchell Pearce.
The tricolours have won five straight heading into the Allianz Stadium battle with the Rabbitohs, their longest streak this year.
Robinson admitted his side had struggled for form this year, but he was happy with their development one week out from the playoffs.
“We all needed to lift, we were playing OK but we were not at the top of our game and I still feel that way,” Robinson said on Wednesday.
“We have improved but we are still not at the top of our game.
“We have always been confident in our ability, but we took some hits at times during the year around an off field incident, the loss to Cronulla, and the loss to Newcastle up there.
“Just a few moments that, didn’t dint our confidence, but made us rethink what path we were on and what we needed to make it work, not just on the field, but off the field.
“There are all those key moments and then there is the positive moments that give you confidence about what is working as well.”
Halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney have enjoyed a welcome return to form leading into the Souths match, which will decide the minor premiership if ladder leaders Manly lose to North Queensland in Townsville on Saturday night.
Robinson said the minor premiership was not a focus in what will be the final regular season games for retiring skipper Anthony Minichiello and rugby-bound back-rower Sonny Bill Williams.
“It’s about trying to stamp our authority in the area and I know Souths feel the same,” he said.
“Sometimes the build up comes from the outside but it is just as much within the teams as well.
“That (the minor premiership) is a bonus, not a focus, if we are good enough we will end up on top.”
Souths hooker Issac Luke will play after beating a dangerous contact charge at the judiciary on Tuesday night. Captain John Sutton (knee) is back to partner Luke Keary in the Rabbitohs halves with Adam Reynolds serving a one-week suspension.
Utility Mitch Aubusson will play No.9 for the Roosters with Jake Friend sidelined with a lung problem. Back-up hooker Heath L’Estrange has been named on the bench in his return from a knee injury.
However Jackson Hastings could be a late inclusion to make his NRL debut if L’Estrange isn’t fit.