Unaccustomed to being finals failures, Sydney Roosters say they are not motivated by the chance to spoil the playoff hopes of their NRL rivals as the Tricolours seek to salvage something from their wreckage of a season.
After three successive minor premierships and the 2013 title, the Roosters will miss the finals for the first time under coach Trent Robinson.
They face Brisbane at Allianz Stadium in the opening match of round 21 on Thursday night – the first of a number of finals contenders they meet over the final six games of the regular season.
The Roosters face Penrith, North Queensland, St George Illawarra, Cronulla and the Broncos again over the final third of the regular season and have the opportunity to put a dent in the finals hopes of every side with a win.
The Roosters wobbled on their way to the 2013 finals with a penultimate round loss to Gold Coast, who missed the playoffs that year and played the role of spoiler with the title hopes of the Tricolours.
But Robinson said that wasn’t the focus for his side.
“It is a poor motivation to get into if you are focused on being an annoyance to other teams, you are putting it in the wrong place,” Robinson said on Wednesday.
“That might be the secondary result but you need to be the best team you can be.
“If that is your focus then you are going to play some good footy.”
“If your primary focus is to be annoying then you won’t progress very far and you won’t be a good team in the future.”
Robinson did concede the 15th placed Roosters would love to finish above 13th placed arch-rivals South Sydney, who have won five games as opposed to the Tricolours three.
“That is always of benefit to a Roosters team but we are both fighting for our own form at the moment,” he said.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett is surprised at the Roosters lowly ladder position ahead of the sides’ first meeting their year and their first clash since Brisbane’s 31-12 win in last year’s preliminary final at Suncorp Stadium.
“It does defy their team. They have quality players and are playing fair football but the results haven’t been going their way. We have a big task on our hands tomorrow night,” Bennett said.
Brisbane’s task was made more difficult by the withdrawal of star forward Matt Gillett on Wednesday.
He failed a fitness test on the shoulder he injured in State of Origin II.
Fellow Queensland forwards Sam Thaiday and Josh McGuire are missing for the visitors due to suspension. Jaydn Su’A and Herman Ese’ese come into the Brisbane 17.
The Roosters are without Jared Waerea-Hargreaves due to a knee injury. Dale Copley comes into the Roosters 17 for his first match against his former side.
* The Roosters have now lost six straight matches for the first time this season and the first time since their wooden spoon season of 2009
* The Roosters have the worst completion rate in the competition (71.7 per cent)
* Despite their form slump, losing six of their last eight, the Broncos average a try for every 9.2 tackles they have inside their opponent’s 20m line, the NRL’s best red zone ratio
Source: Fox Sports Stats