There was a lot of talk earlier this season, when Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk was out injured, that Keary goes better when Cronk is out. I don’t look at it like that.
Those two players complement each other. I think when Cronk’s not there Keary has to take more of an active role and get the ball in his hands more often because Latrell Mitchell at five-eighth is not a natural in that position.
Cronk is a dominant player, so he and Keary share that workload when they’re out there together. Keary is still doing plenty and making an impact – it’s just that you’ve got two creative halves out there in threatening positions. That’s better for the Roosters and worse for the opposition.
Keary and Cronk understand each other perfectly. That was obvious from the grand final, when Cronk adopted a directional, inspirational role because he was playing with a bad injury and Keary fitted in with that brilliantly.
As a former Roosters player I was obviously thrilled to see my old team win that grand final, but I still had enormous respect for the Storm coming out of that game.
The Roosters played an awesome first half to lead 18-0 at the break. It was almost the perfect half of football, I think a 94 per cent completion rate. Sometimes in grand finals teams don’t play their best footy because it’s a week full of distractions and commitments, but not this time.
Not for the Roosters anyway. They squeezed the life out of the Storm in that first half. Gave them no room to move. They crowded them, their defensive work was great and so was their off-the-ball work. The Storm were forced to use up a lot of juice.
I believe that if it was any other team except Melbourne, the Roosters would have racked up more than 30 points and really blown them away.
If the NSW team for State of Origin I was picked today, Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary would have to be in the halves.
Any other team would have fallen part in the second half, but Melbourne are a great club with a great winning culture and they hung in there. That’s why they’re always a threat – and will be a huge threat at home in a game like this.
The Storm are coming up against the team that took that ring away from them last year. Coach Craig Bellamy will have them trying to start fast and assert what they believe is their superiority and aim to be dominant straightaway.
When the Storm do that well, it’s hard to come back against them. The Roosters have got to be ready for that and I’m sure coach Trent Robinson will have prepared them for a very intense clash. I think it’s going to be physical and go right down to the wire. It will be a cracker of a game.
Defence will set up the win. Both teams know defence is super-critical in a clash like this. Good defence sets up your attack and if you’re not defending well and coming off your own line all the time when you’ve got the ball, you’re setting yourself too big a task.
It’ll be about mounting pressure, getting your sets of sixes out, keeping the ball in play and trying to wear the other team down. The forward battle is going to have a huge say in the result.
There are some changes to both teams from last year’s grand final, including Blake Ferguson, who’s no longer at the Roosters and Jake Friend, who’s out injured. Also Billy Slater retired from the Roosters and Tim Glasby moved on.
But the mentality of both sides, driven by their coaches, is still there and that’s the main thing.
The Storm are unbeaten and the Roosters have won four straight after losing to South Sydney in the first round. The NRL doesn’t get any better than this clash, does it?
I’m delighted to say I’ll be at the game as part of my ambassadorial role for the Roosters. I’m tipping the Roosters by two points. I just think they’re going a touch better than the Storm and will prove that – even away from home.