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The Roosters' 2020 campaign will be Trent Robinson’s greatest challenge so far

Trent Robinson. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Roar Pro
29th June, 2020
9

Now in his eighth year of coaching in the NRL, some would argue Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has had pretty smooth sailing.

An accomplished roster his whole time through, backed by a board and arguably the game’s greatest powerbroker in Nick Politis, Robinson has had the luxury of coaching great sides.

You only have to mention names like Sonny Bill Williams, Cooper Cronk, James Tedesco and Anthony Minichiello to realise the extent of Robinson’s fortune. And while guiding the foundation club to three NRL Premierships across his first eight years is no easy feat, 2020 now looms as his greatest test so far.

In Friday night’s 26-12 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons, the Roosters lost both Victor Radley and Sam Verrills for the season due to ACL injuries. To further compound the loss, unheralded forward Isaac Liu is also facing time on the sidelines after he received a broken rib in the match.

Victor Radley of the Roosters celebrates victory with Jake Friend of the Roosters.

Victor Radley will miss the season. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Radley, who has arguably been the Roosters’ best player since the competition’s resumption, looked destined for a Blues jersey at seasons end. Known as the ‘Inflictor’, Radley’s attacking prowess has flourished under the new rules and his capability of acting as a third half on the field to combine with Keary and Tedesco through the middle has been a masterstroke for Trent Robinson’s men.

And while Verrills has seen limited minutes this year mainly coming off the bench, Robinson already played his hand as to how he was going to utilise Verrills in 2020. Start the young hooker in games against the lower performing teams and give veteran and co-captain Jake Friend some time to rest. A young, energetic 14 who can capitalise on tiring forwards in the middle of the ruck is something every team wishes they could have.

However, that has now all come unstuck. Whether or not you can blame Bankwest Stadium’s turf is besides the point. Two freak injuries with players being untouched can happen. And unfortunately it was the Roosters turn to bear that brunt.

Now, with their depth and character about to be tested, Robinson will face his greatest challenge. Can he take this Easts team to three in a row and be regarded as one of the all time greatest coaches we’ve seen? Some say he’s probably already there, but now a fourth Provan-Summons would propel him among the likes of Wayne Bennett and Jack Gibson.

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You only have to cast your mind back to Anzac Day last year. The Roosters would come out victorious, defeating St George 20-10, but captain Jake Friend would go down again. A ruptured bicep would rule him out for six weeks. He would return two weeks later, but then re-injured his arm yet again in a big win over Newcastle.

The Roosters quest for back-to-back titles had been severely dashed. They scrambled to try and sign hookers and were even tempted to lure the underperforming Michael Lichaa from the Bulldogs.

But yet again, Trent Robinson showed his poise and blooded the young Sam Verrills from Avalon. He would come off from the bench as Radley would start at dummy half, but as his maturity and experience grew, Robinson gave him the keys to be a part of that famous Easts spine.

Sydney Roosters NRL coach Trent Robinson

Trent Robinson (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

Tedesco, Keary, Cronk and now Verrills.

So much was Robinson’s trust in Verrils, when his co-captain returned just in time for the NRL grand final, it was Friend this time who would start from the bench. And Robinson would be rewarded as the youngster from Avalon darted from dummy half to score the opening try in the NRL grand final and played an integral role in his side’s win.

Just like last year, the Roosters on the back of success, would lose a key player from their side. Other fans will shout and argue and say it’s karma or it’s about time they play with a side under the salary cap. However, whatever side you barrack for, one thing is for certain. This is where Trent Robinson can stand up and silence those doubters.

Can he lead the Roosters and become the first team since Jack Gibson’s Eels to win three in a row? Only time will tell. But if history has anyway of telling us something, I’m sure Trent Robinson has something up his sleeve.

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