Trent Robinson is adamant that up to 1000 games in missing experience will be no excuse against Melbourne after Joseph Aukuso-Suaalii became the latest Sydney Roosters player to be ruled out of the do-or-die semi-final.
Fresh off one of the gutsiest wins in the Roosters’ recent history, officials were on Sunday morning left counting the cost of the Tricolours’ 13-12 victory over Cronulla.
After their season appeared dead little more than a month ago, the Roosters are now one of the form teams of the competition, boasting six straight wins heading into next week’s semi-final.
But it won’t be easy.
The Roosters will be without their two strike weapons on the left edge, after a recurrence of Joey Manu’s hamstring injury and Suaalii’s concussion.
Roosters officials were on Sunday morning trying to identify the incident that left the winger hurt, but believe Suaalii’s head made contact with the ground in a tackle.
Medical staff picked up concussion symptoms at halftime and Suaalii subsequently failed a head injury assessment.
There were initial hopes he could apply for an exemption to play if he recovered well.
But a concussion suffered in training in late June means he will not be eligible and Roosters officials concede Suaalii will be unavailable to take on the Storm, adding to a overflowing casualty ward.
Winger Daniel Tupou (knee) is unable to replace Suaalii, while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is banned for the season and Sitili Tupouniua (neck) is also out.
Paul Momirovski (shoulder) and Connor Watson (knee) were among others unavailable heading into the finals, as part of a casualty ward now totalling 1009 games-worth of experience.
Robinson conceded on Saturday night his staff had potentially erred on Manu’s hamstring, after the centre re-injured the same left leg on his return against Cronulla.
“Of course it is a blow,” Robinson said.
“So is Joey and so is Jared and Sitili and Connor, and all of that. The amount of guys who played this year and are not playing now, but we’re in the finals.
“We’ll have 17 guys who want to play better footy next week and we’ll have the spirit we had today.”
Corey Allan, Jaxson Paulo and Drew Hutchison are all options to come into the backline.
The Roosters are not alone in their injury problems ahead of Friday night’s clash; the Storm will be without Ryan Papenhuyzen and have winger Xavier Coates in doubt.
But with one less day to recover than Melbourne and after a more gruelling match, the Roosters enter the week on the back foot.
They will be spurred on though by the way they fought against the Sharks.
At one stage the Roosters were down to 12 with James Tedesco sin-binned, had two makeshift centres, a fill-in fullback and a young winger playing on the opposite side of the field on Saturday night.
Suia Wong was among the heroes for the Roosters, filling in at centre in the second half for Manu and scoring a match-levelling try as well as crucially cleaning up a late loose ball.