Those of us who were lucky enough to turn on the footy on last Saturday night were able to witness one of the greatest moments in the NRL era.
The 2019 grand final replay mark two between the Roosters and the Raiders promised to be another hard-fought match between these bitter rivals and in the end, only the Raiders supporters went away disappointed.
It was much more than just another top-of-the-table clash though, as seemingly far more important than the game itself was the return to the NRL of the one and only Sonny Bill Williams.
Fans either love or hate the Roosters and it would appear that the feeling also applies to the former Kiwis and All Blacks star.
Returning to the Roosters for a brief stint before resuming playing for the Toronto Wolfpack, coronavirus permitting, we were treated to the most extraordinary build-up to his brief and unremarkable performance.
It appeared that Fox Sports had one camera on the game and the rest on Williams as he arrived at the ground, appeared in the dressing room, did some stretches, sat on the bench, and eventually picked up an interchange card.
The unwarranted attention is not his fault, of course, as he appears to be a relatively humble man, but it is more a reflection on the sycophantic standard of sports coverage that we are too often subjected to.
The Roosters took the opportunity to recruit Williams for the end-of-season games as they chase their increasingly likely three-peat, on the basis that he would not only help alleviate their injury crisis, but also add to their winning culture.
We all know that Williams is very experienced, successful, and has climbed to the top of both the rugby league and rugby union mountains, and we also know that he is capable of pulling off a big play when it counts in big games. So a perfect fit, right?
Maybe not, as the Roosters’ bench is now full to overflowing following the return of key forwards Angus Crichton, Boyd Cordner and Mitch Aubusson from injury.
There is now the real possibility that one or more of the forwards who have contributed to the Roosters’ 2018 and 2019 premierships, and their success this year, could miss out on selection when the big games get under way, in order to fit the global footballing messiah into the 17.
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Leaving Williams aside for the moment, the pack and bench that coach Trent Robinson will take into the finals will look something like this.
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Isaac Liu 14. Sitili Tupouniua 15. Freddy Lussick 16. Mitch Aubusson 17. Lindsay Collins
Robinson wouldn’t tinker with numbers eight to 13. They’ve all been there and done that, and form a very formidable and experienced pack. They’ll all be there.
As for the bench, based on recent form, the hard-running Tupouniua is certain to be selected, Collins has played well in his 16 games this year and maintains the rage when Waerea-Hargreaves is having a spell, Aubusson is vital for not only his cool head and general play but also his utility value, and Lussick will most likely be there as back-up and insurance for Friend.
This line-up leaves both the well performed Nat Butcher and Williams, at $37,500 per game, watching from the coach’s box.
The question is, if Williams plays, who misses out?
They couldn’t leave Williams out, could they?