Pressure is mounting after back-to-back losses but Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson insists improvement is all he wants out of Thursday night’s daunting NRL away clash with North Queensland.
Already the toughest road trip in the competition, it’ll be even harder against a Cowboys side intent on correcting their own sloppy start to the season and with a baby-faced halves pairing set to go up against arguably the best there’s been, Johnathan Thurston.
“It’s early in the season,” Robinson told reporters on Wednesday in Townsville.
“We’ve had a slow start, but we want to improve each week.
“There’s wins and losses, but the team that improves the best between round one and round 26 will go a long way towards winning the comp.
“If we do that, we’ll be good.”
Destroyed by South Sydney in the opening round, the Roosters were much better but still beaten 21-20 in Canberra last weekend, their rookie playmakers Jackson Hastings and Jayden Nikorima lacking the composure and drive needed to convert their attacking chances into points.
Robinson concedes the pair and teenage fullback Latrell Mitchell have all been thrown in the deep end at a time when the team’s three most-important players – Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner – are all sidelined.
“Usually, you’re supported by an experienced half, whereas we’ve got three young guys there in 7, 6 and 1. Every game’s a big learning curve for them, and that’s positive,” he said.
“There’s no excuses there – that’s where we’re at. Whatever lessons they got out of last week, if they can put into this week, we’ll be a better team again.”
The Cowboys fumbled their way to defeat against Parramatta last week and it is hard to see the premiers, who are unchanged, putting in another uncharacteristic poor effort.
Both teams are coming off taxing five-day turnarounds, with the Roosters facing a particularly difficult schedule having travelled to Canberra last week and only arriving on Wednesday in Townsville.
“We want to reduce these five-day turnarounds if we get the draw better but it’s been talked about enough,” Robinson said.
“Some people have tried to use them as (an excuse) but … it’s whoever deals with it best and remains positive about the game.”
STATS THAT MATTER:
* The Cowboys haven’t faced the Roosters since round one last season, when they were shock 28-4 losers
* In their past six matches at home, the Cowboys have been dominant in the final 20 minutes, outscoring opponents 86-18
* The Roosters have conceded at least 20 points in each of their past three matches. They have not conceded 20 plus points in four straight games under coach Trent Robinson