After dropping Jackson Hastings, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has drawn a line in the sand and demanded an immediate reversal of their NRL fortunes.
In a massive shake up for last year’s minor premiers, Hastings has been demoted to NSW Cup with Ryan Matterson to take his place alongside Mitchell Pearce in the halves on Sunday against Canterbury.
After sinking to 15th and at 2-8, Robinson issued a wake-up call to his playing group by sending Hastings – rumoured to be on the outer at Moore Park – back to play with the Wyong Roos.
While he wouldn’t reveal the reasons behind Hastings being overlooked, Robinson said the move was intended to send a message about the side’s standards.
“He took it well and he knows what he needs to do,” Robinson said on Saturday.
“There’s up and downs in every year and every career and you’ve got to make sure you play well and prove yourself and fight your way back.
Instead of turning out at ANZ Stadium against the Dogs, Hastings will play in front of a few hundred people for Wyong against Newtown at Morrie Breen Oval on the central coast.
With their top-eight hopes dangling by a thread, having to win 10 of their last 14, Robinson said for the first time in four years they weren’t thinking about themselves as finals contenders.
But with all troops on deck after suffering through a horror injury run in the opening rounds, he said they were out of excuses.
“It’s not about finals yet for us,” Robinson said.
“But we’ve got to start playing our best. We’ve got the guys back in our team now and we’ve got to make sure we go after them on Sunday.
“It’s getting to the point where even we’ve had enough and we’ve got to make sure we go out and perform.”
The Bulldogs go into the game in fifth but will be worried by their inconsistency having not strung together back-to-back wins since victories in the opening two rounds.
Canterbury coach Des Hasler has again left much-maligned back-rower Tony Williams in reserve grade after dropping him for last week’s 36-4 win over the Wests Tigers.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* Since 2013, the Bulldogs have won just one of seven against the Roosters, easily their worst record with any opponent in that period
* Canterbury have the best red-zone defence of any team this season, conceding a try for every 22.9 tackles that opponents have had inside their 20m line
* The Roosters have relied heavily on kicks to score this season with 13 of their 30 tries (43 per cent) coming via a kick, easily the highest percentage of any team