Mitchell Pearce is the player to spark a Sydney Roosters’ NRL revival, Des Hasler believes.
The Roosters host Canterbury in round 17 on Thursday night, in Pearce’s return from a calf injury.
The former representative playmaker has only played three matches this year due to injury and suspension, and Bulldogs coach Hasler believes Pearce can lead the second-last placed Roosters out of the doldrums.
“With Mitchell back, this is probably one of the strongest sides they have fielded this year, all bar Boyd Cordner, they are coming off the bye and they should be pretty fired up,” Hasler said on Wednesday at Belmore Sports Ground.
“I imagine Mitchell will want to play as much football as he can.
“Any rugby league player is at their happiest when they are playing footy and he will want to get out there and make every minute count.”
The Roosters had been greatly buoyed by the return of Pearce, assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon said.
“Mitch is an integral part of how we play, he looks in good spirits and is really eager to get back out there on the field,” Fitzgibbon said.
Getting over the initial disappointment of the suspension would have been hard and, after suffering the injury, he has had to find that inner motivation.
“He wants to have a good extended run of footy at the end of the year.”
Pearce will join Jackson Hastings in the Roosters’ halves, with Ryan Matterson being pushed out to 18th man.
The Roosters also welcome back State Of Origin stars Blake Ferguson and Aidan Guerra, while winger Joseph Manu falls out of the Tricolours’ side.
However, Cordner is still a while away in his return from a foot injury suffered in State of Origin I.
“He is improving and we hope to have him back before the end of the year,” Fitzgibbon said.
“But he hasn’t trained with the group yet and he won’t play this week.”
Centre Josh Morris hasn’t been named for the Bulldogs as he continues his recuperation from a groin injury suffered in NSW camp ahead of Origin II.
“He is 50/50 and he will go through a fitness test but he still has some lingering groin issues,” Hasler said.
Will Hopoate will stay at fullback for the Dogs, Hasler insisted, despite Brett Morris’ stellar return from a knee injury on the wing last week in which he scored three tries in his first game of the year.
“The (work) load is important there, the load is much greater at fullback and he is not ready for that,” Hasler said.
Greg Eastwood returns from a month on the sidelines due to injury in Canterbury’s back row.
The Bulldogs can force their way into the top four with a win at Allianz Stadium, if Brisbane lose to Melbourne on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.
The sides last met in round 11, with the Bulldogs running out 32-20 victors.
* The Roosters have won four of the past five between the sides, and the past two at Allianz Stadium including last year’s semi-final
* The Roosters have won just one of their past five games, including the round-11 loss to the Dogs; Canterbury have won five of their past six
* Bulldogs skipper James Graham has made the most runs, 332, and most metres, 2729, this year and has made more than 200m in his past three starts