NRL finals nightmare drives Roosters

After the Sydney Roosters saved some of their worst football of the season for last year’s NRL finals, captain Jake Friend says the minor premiers are determined to avoid another nightmare this week.

For the third successive year, the Roosters host the first qualifying final in week one of the play-offs.

They shrugged aside Manly in the corresponding fixture in 2013 on their way to the premiership in one of the most memorable finals clashes in years – a 4-0 win to the Tricolours.

But last year in the opening week, they succumbed to Penrith in one of the upsets of the season.

Without the resulting benefit of the week off, the then-defending premiers went on to stumble their way through a victory over North Queensland before being eliminated by South Sydney.

Taking on Melbourne at Allianz Stadium on Friday night gives the Roosters a chance to atone for last year’s slip up, Friend says, as the foundation club aims to extend its 12-match winning streak.

“It’s a big game and we missed the mark last year but I am sure we will fix that this year and be ready to play come Friday,” he said.

“It is good to have that confidence and momentum (but) we have to prepare well and turn up and play better than we have been.

“The week off is a big advantage and we would love that.”

In the absence of playmaker Mitchell Pearce due to a hamstring complaint, youngster Jackson Hastings will be handed the toughest assignment of his short career, a head-to-head duel with Test half Cooper Cronk.

“The two games Jackson Hastings has played leading into the finals are going to help him a lot and we’re very confident in Jacko to do the job for us in the finals and we’re looking forward to seeing how he goes,” Friend said.

“The last couple of weeks have been really good for him confidence-wise and I think he’s built a few combinations with a couple of the boys. It’ll be really good for him going into the finals series.”

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