The Sydney Roosters have been left reeling with confirmation they’ll likely be without star forwards Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner for the opening 10 rounds of the NRL season.
Coach Trent Robinson, in Manchester for the World Club Series launch, confirmed on Monday (Tuesday AEDT) the pair still faced lengthy layoffs, with vice-captain Cordner having had surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle while enforcer Waerea-Hargreaves remains on the comeback trail from a knee injury.
The Roosters have endured a tumultuous off-season, including the departures of stars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney and Michael Jennings as well as the Australia Day controversy which has left halfback Mitchell Pearce’s NRL career in limbo.
They remain among the favourites to reach the grand final, but face an uphill battle to start the season – with Robinson forced to field a patchwork pack for their blockbuster round-one clash with South Sydney.
The premiership-winning coach admits Waerea-Hargreaves, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in August last year, may not feature for his side until May.
The New Zealand international was sorely missed in the back half of last season for the Roosters, who faded from contention as injuries took their toll.
“There’s been no stoppages in the development in (Waerea-Hargreaves’) knee, but it’s still round five to ten when he’ll come back in the NRL,” Robinson told AAP ahead of their clash with St Helens on Friday.
The timeline for Cordner’s recovery is less clear.
The hard-running second-rower tore his pectoral muscle at training at the start of the month, with the recovery time expected to stretch beyond three months.
“Boyd’s a critical player for us. You can’t replace a player like Boyd, but that’s life,” Robinson explained.
“We’ve got to move on and deal with this game and the start of the season without him.
“As it’s only just happened, we can’t be sure on a (recovery timetable). It depends on how he develops.”
The reliable Mitchell Aubusson and unheralded former Bronco Mitchell Frei are in contention to fill Cordner’s place in the starting line-up – with both expected to be given an opportunity to show Robinson their worth at Langtree Park on Friday (Saturday 0700 AEDT).