As seen on NRL.com
The Roosters have been at the forefront of conversations around premiership favourites in 2023 but centre Joey Manu said his side must first prove to themselves that they’re worthy of being in that esteemed company.
You might not recognise him at first, with the 26-year-old star set to wear headgear in his return from a pre-season facial fracture, but Manu is determined to help his side bounce back from a nightmare season-opener against the Dolphins.
Injuries before the game and during it may have contributed to the loss but the Golden Boot winner said there’ll be no excuses come Saturday’s home clash with the Warriors.
“Everyone knows the end goal is to win and while we’ve got a good team here… we haven’t proven anything,” Manu said.
“There’s a few young boys here and there’s some great leaders but we’ve got to prove to ourselves first of the team we want to be.
“Just playing as a Rooster and playing that style of footy is what we’re trying to chase.
“We’ve had a few injuries and we’ve got a few young boys in there, but I think that’s when we play our best and that’s when we really go after it.”
Manu’s return offers the first look at a potentially dynamic centre pairing with young gun Joseph Suaali’i, who played on the wing in all of his 19 games last year but now shifts closer to the action.
The Kiwi International said the pair have forged a close friendship during their time at the club and have worked hard to help each other develop in the role.
“You see what he does on the field but he’s just scratching the surface there. He’s someone that wants to get better everyday and that’s what I really like about him,” Manu said.
“It’s good to see him in the centre position, I feel like it’s always been a solid position in rugby league where you can really battle opponents and I know he’ll be up there with the best centres so I look forward to seeing how he goes.
“I’m always trying to help him out and he’s definitely helping me out too, so it’s been good.”
After missing the Roosters’ sudden-death semi-final last year against Souths last year with a calf injury, Manu will be itching to don the famous red, white and blue for what will be just his second appearance at the refurbished Allianz Stadium.
And coach Robinson said the 2022 Dally M Centry of the Year has given the side every confidence he’s ready to make his mark on the 2023 season.
“I know from what I’ve seen at training and the confidence he’s got from attacking the physical parts of the training,” Robinson told the media on Friday.
“I’ve seen him in the wrestle room, I’ve seen him on the field, so I feel like he’s ready to go.”
Robinson was adamant there’d be no major changes to the game plan despite some uncharacteristic errors in the loss to the Dolphins.
“We weren’t happy with the way we played on the weekend but the thing is you’ve got to fix some things but you don’t need to jump at shadows,” he said.
“You’ve got to hold your cool early in the season, fix some things and go after it.
“We’re still focused on how we want to start this year and that’s no different so don’t get too concerned too early about one game.”