Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has welcomed the challenge of leading the Sydney Roosters out of the NRL doldrums, beginning with Saturday’s daunting clash against Melbourne.
One month into his lengthy layoff from a knee reconstruction, big prop Waerea-Hargreaves burst back into form in last week’s win over the Wests Tigers, running a season-high and game-high 203 metres.
And now fans will expect more of the same from the team’s emotional leader as the Roosters seek some momentum to make the long climb back up the ladder.
“I love a challenge,” Waerea-Hargreaves said.
“We haven’t been in this situation for a few years now, so it’ll be a good challenge for us to get together, stay close, continue to work hard and get the results on the weekends.”
The 27-year-old labelled his individual performance against the Tigers as his best since returning to the team, and said it gave him confidence in his leg that was lacking four weeks ago.
Last week’s effort was also his first run-on start of the season.
“With the surface, the amount of rain we had, there was some doubt about a month ago,” he said.
“But I definitely grew in confidence from playing in those conditions, playing those minutes.”
It is just the tonic the former New Zealand representative needs when he faces incumbent Kiwi captain Jesse Bromwich and the rest of the second-placed Storm unit on Saturday.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said he was looking forward to the individual clash.
“Jared started for the first time last week, and it takes a while to find your feet after an ACL injury. Jesse has been the best prop in the competition, so it’ll be a good challenge for Jared,” Robinson said.
“They’ve got the best roster, or the best players in the competition playing in their team, and Jesse Bromwich is the number one front-rower in the game at the moment.”
Roosters fullback Latrell Mitchell will miss the game after succumbing to an ankle injury, while Robinson will also have to replace prop Dylan Napa, who unsuccessfully fought a high tackle charge at the judiciary.
The Storm, equal top of the ladder with Cronulla, are unchanged from their last-start win over Penrith and are gunning for their seventh win in succession.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Roosters are looking to avoid losing consecutive home games against the Storm for the first time in their history.
* The Roosters have the worst completion rate of the competition (72 per cent), while the Storm have the best (81 per cent).
* If Melbourne does not concede 20 points in this match, they will set the longest streak in the NRL era of not conceding points from round one, surpassing the 12 games by the Dragons set in 2011.