Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has placed Brisbane on notice that the reigning premiers expect to step up a notch when Cooper Cronk returns for Thursday night’s NRL showdown at the SCG.
And the Broncos seem to have heeded the warning, with Robinson’s counterpart Anthony Seibold making special plans to counter Cronk’s comeback from a hamstring injury.
Cronk hasn’t played since the Roosters’ round-one loss to South Sydney, but Robinson has been pleased with his side’s steady progress since in back-to-back wins over Manly and Parramatta.
Now he’s demanding further improvement with their veteran playmaker back on deck.
“We’ve had our style of play since Cooper’s come in and we offered up that most of last year and developed – and that’s what we want to continue to do,” Robinson said on match eve.
“He’s our general. He allows other guys to shine and leads us around.
“He’s done that for 350 games exactly so he knows what to do and he’s a vital cog in how we play.”
Seibold is acutely aware that Cronk’s return will allow 2018 grand final hero Luke Keary to revert from halfback to his regular five-eighth role and afford Latrell Mitchell more freedom to cause havoc back in the centres.
Ominously, Roosters captain Boyd Cordner, with eight tries in his past 10 games against the Broncos, also lurks down the deadly left edge of the Tricolours’ attack.
“They’re really dangerous there,” Seibold said.
“It’s really strong edge for them.”
Hence why the Broncos boss has opted to shift Kangaroos back-rower Matt Gillett, a proven defensive weapon, to the right edge.
“The reality of it was that 48 per cent of tries (against Brisbane) came down that right edge last year,” Seibold said.
“Stats tell whatever story you want to paint, but that was one that stood out.
“There were a lot of line breaks and tries conceded on that right edge and ‘Gillo’ adds a bit of experience there, so we just thought it was the right time to put him back there with ‘Lodgey’ (prop Matt Lodge) coming back.”