Recalled co-captain Mitchell Pearce will help Sydney Roosters “apply the blowtorch” to a well rested Brisbane in Friday night’s NRL preliminary final, tri-colours assistant Craig Fitzgibbon says.
And the minor premiers have backed Pearce to prove the difference at Suncorp Stadium – a venue that has only brought bad memories for the NSW No.7.
Pearce finally looks set to overcome a hamstring complaint suffered in their round 24 win over Brisbane after being named as starting halfback.
But the man who has impressively steered the side in Pearce’s absence – teenage sensation Jackson Hastings – has been retained in the 17 on the bench.
Fitzgibbon said Pearce would provide the boost the Roosters needed against a Broncos outfit fresh from a week off.
“Brisbane might feel more fresh but it is up to us to apply the blowtorch and make that freshness feel like they are underdone,” Fitzgibbon told Roosters TV.
“It’s tough to do but we are ready for that challenge.
“They are super amped to play in front of the atmosphere Suncorp Stadium can provide.”
Even Pearce, who has a horror 0-6 State of Origin record for NSW at the Broncos home ground.
“This is what we do. If you are a player and want to shy away from an occasion like Suncorp for a semi then you are in the wrong sport,” Fitzgibbon said.
“You have to stand up.”
Not that Fitzgibbon had any doubts about Pearce.
“Jacko (Hastings) did an outstanding job for the time that he was in there, he came up with big plays at key times,” he said.
“But with ‘Junior’ (Pearce) being our captain and with the big game experience, it all goes on the line and so he walks straight in.
“He has been such a key part of the team for such a long time that he comes back in and fills the rest of the team with confidence.”
The Roosters have opted not to name an extended interchange, ensuring Matt McIlwrick misses the cut.
They line up against an unchanged Brisbane.
Meanwhile, Cowboys coach Paul Green named an unchanged side for Saturday night’s grand final qualifier in Melbourne after their 39-0 weekend romp over Cronulla.
Green reckoned there was room for improvement against Melbourne, seeking an 80 per cent completion rate.
They had 79 per cent against the Sharks.
“I wouldn’t say perfect (against Cronulla),” Green said on Tuesday.
“We had a few unforced errors.
“Different errors, swing momentum.
“Once that swings it’s very hard to get it back.”
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has named bench forward Tim Glasby as starting prop, shifting Jordan McLean to an extended bench.
Forwards Christian Welch and Dayne Weston have also been included on the six man interchange.