Captaincy is bringing out the best in Mitchell Pearce, with the Sydney Roosters star emerging as the NRL’s leading playmaker over the first month of the premiership.
Pearce was handed the Roosters captaincy, alongside Jake Friend at the start of the year following the retirement of club great Anthony Minichiello.
With Friend sidelined with a shoulder injury Pearce has led the tricolours to a 3-1 start to the year.
Ahead of Sunday’s clash with winless Cronulla at Allianz Stadium, he is enjoying some of his best football to date.
After the opening four rounds, Pearce topped the NRL try assist tally with seven alongside South Sydney’s Adam Reynolds as the Roosters enjoyed wins over North Queensland, Penrith and Canberra, as well as a loss to the Rabbitohs.
Cowboys’ superstar Johnathan Thurston leads the line break assist list with six over North Queensland’s underwhelming start to 2015, alongside Newcastle’s Jarrod Mullen and Penrith’s Matt Moylan.
Pearce was fourth on that list alongside Parramatta’s Corey Norman with five.
The Roosters Kiwi representative Sam Moa believes the captaincy has brought a new-found maturity to Pearce’s game.
“We certainly have noticed a difference,” Moa said.
“He has always been one of our leaders but you can tell that having that official tag as the captain has certainly helped him in regards to his game and his preparation.
“He has got some great support there in Jake Friend and (vice-captains) Jared (Waerea-Hargreaves) and Boyd (Cordner).
“We have a really good crew there that can complement each other.”
The Roosters lost centre Blake Ferguson for around four months during the week due to an ankle injury suffered in the big win over the Raiders.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall moves into right centre for the round five clash with the Sharks, with rookie Nene Macdonald moving onto the right wing.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has rung in the changes in a bid to reinvigorate his side after a horror 0-4 start.
Jack Bird has been brought into five-eighth with Wade Graham returning to the back-row.
Valentine Holmes moves to fullback with Michael Gordon swapping with him to the wing.
Matt Prior moves to prop with Andrew Fifita falling back to the bench.
Sydney Roosters v Cronulla
* Since the beginning of 2010 the Sharks have won five and drawn one of their nine matches against the Roosters. This is the Roosters worst record against any team in this period.
* The Sharks are trying to avoid becoming the first team since South Sydney in 2008 to start a season with five straight losses.
* The Roosters are scoring the most points and tries this season (27 and 4.8 per game). They are also conceding the fewest points (14 per game).
* The Roosters kept their near perfect record of controlling the ball and winning under Trent Robinson intact against the Raiders last week. Since 2013 they have won 21 of 22 matches with 50 per cent or more of the ball.
* Shaun Kenny-Dowall needs just two tries to become only the third Roosters player in history to score 100 tries behind Anthony Minichiello (139 tries) and Bill Mullins (104 tries).