Sydney Roosters skipper Boyd Cordner will make his return against Brisbane on Friday night as the premiers continue their hot run into the NRL finals.
The Australia and New South Wales captain hasn’t played since round 10 due to a series of concussions, but on Thursday coach Trent Robinson declared he is ready to go.
Last season Luke Keary was also sidelined for six weeks after repeated head knocks and Robinson said the club has learned lessons from the conservative approach.
Still, unleashing one of the biggest stars of the game five weeks before finals is a huge advantage for the two-time defending premiers.
“Having your captain back, having a leader like Boyd back in your team is very important, but then even just for him personally to get back on the field,” Robinson said on the eve of their clash with Broncos.
“It’s a great lesson because you’ve got one of the most competitive guys in our sport out for six weeks because it’s the right thing to do.
“It wasn’t us keeping him out, it was a joint decision on how we were going to look after it.
“As competitive as you are and as brutal as you are in the way that we play, you have to look after yourself and your health – for right now and for the future.”
Experienced winger Daniel Tupou will also return on the left flank as the side starts to build towards their title defence.
The Roosters have endured a hefty injury toll this season only to emerge in fourth spot on the ladder with five rounds to play.
Robinson said last week’s 36-16 demolition of Wests Tigers was the start of a road they’re walking into the finals, that for the past two seasons has been all about timing.
“Every year is different and treated differently,” he said.
“I’ve said before, you don’t want to walk the same path, that would be a boring life, so we’ve created a different path for ourselves this year.
“We’re excited about the road ahead and that for us, we sat down and discussed that about 10 days ago, we started that road against the Tigers.”
It’s a dire warning sign for the Broncos after a horror week in which they lost head coach Anthony Seibold.
A 59-0 thumping against the Roosters from round four was the biggest in Broncos’ club history.
The memory of it will add to their stresses heading into enemy territory at Sydney Cricket Ground.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Roosters have won back to back games against the Broncos just once since 2013-14, with two wins in 2017.
* Brisbane have been outscored 134-14 in the final 20 minutes of their matches since the resumption of the competition.
* The Broncos will finish with single figure season wins for the first time, with 10 wins in 2013 their fewest. Their most losses in any regular season is 13, in both 2010 and 2013.