14 hours ago - 1 Likes
Knights A Major Threat-Roosters
The Sydney Roosters are adamant Newcastle has learned to cope without champion playmaker Andrew Johns and will be ready for the defending premiers in the qualifying final at Aussie Stadium on Saturday night.
Roosters hooker Craig Wing went even further, suggesting his National Rugby League side would have found it easier to beat the Knights if Johns was not sidelined with a serious neck injury.
Wing noted that with Johns on the field, all Newcastle's attack centred around their playmaker, making for a simple game plan in theory - to nullify one of the world's best players.
"If anything it might have been a little easier with Joey in the team because he runs everything and you know where it's all coming from," Wing said at Aussie Stadium.
"Now you've got individuals all over the field who can just start something from nothing."
One of those key individuals is 21-year-old Kurt Gidley, who's been burdened with the pressure of filling Johns' shoes.
So far he's proved capable of handling the vital role, with the Knights winning three of their four past matches without Australian captain Johns.
"Over the number of weeks they've been playing (without Johns) they've just been getting better and better as a team," said Wing, who missed the squad's pool session because of a burst eardrum.
"They've started to play for each other rather than looking to rely on Joey because he's not there.
"They've got a lot of experience and a lot of really good players and all their young players are rep players of the future so we're not taking it easy."
Wing said he expected people to write off Newcastle's chances because Johns was such a massive loss.
But with six current or former internationals in the starting line-up, including gun forwards Ben Kennedy and Danny Buderus, Wing said the Roosters would have to work hard for victory.
Sydney skipper Brad Fittler said he was surprised at how poorly the Knights had fared in the past when Johns was off the paddock.
"With the side they have got, it's not as though they lack leadership," said the former test captain, who will carry a shoulder injury into the finals.
"I think they're just realising what potential they have got and playing without Joey doesn't bother them any more.
"I think they were more disappointed in their past record than anyone.
"The past six weeks they have shown they can win without him. They're coming in with a lot of confidence and Newcastle with a lot of confidence is a dangerous formula."
Coach Ricky Stuart said the Knights were better off with Gidley at halfback.
"They have had a lot more time to prepare and get used to his style of play and the more you train with a team and fit into a position that you haven't had a lot of football with, the better you will be," said Stuart.