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After just two rounds, the Bulldogs and the Roosters occupy the top two spots on the ladder ? with many critics already believing Friday?s game could be a preview of the 2004 grand final.
After an average start to the season the Roosters bounced back to form last weekend with a solid 42-20 win over Manly at Brookevale.
Particularly pleasing for the side is the form of halfback Brett Finch, who orchestrated a number of clever tries with his deft passing game. Finch?s growing dominance within the side has taken some pressure off captain Brad Fittler, who has been accustomed to being the Roosters sole ?go to? man in past seasons.
Unfortunately, Saturday night?s win came at a high price, with tough prop Jason Cayless out for a month with medial ligament damage. Ryan Cross is likely to miss two weeks after injuring his ankle in the win. The news is a relief to Roosters fans, who must have feared the worst for the talented centre after he left the field in considerable pain. Cross produced a remarkable effort last year to play every game for the club, after cruelly having season?s 2001 and 2002 taken from him with serious leg injuries.
Underrated Chris Flannery also returned for the Roosters two weeks ahead of schedule after undergoing an off-season shoulder reconstruction. His availability is a major boost for Stuart, as he is able to cover virtually any position required of him on the paddock.
Although the Roosters recent history against the Bulldogs is not very good, they will take a great deal of confidence from winning late last year when it mattered most. The team is ;
Anthony Minichiello Chris Walker Justin Hodges Chris Flannery Todd Byrne Brad Fittler (c) Brett Finch Peter Cusack Ian Henderson Ned Catic Adrian Morley Craig Fitzgibbon Luke Ricketson Chad Robinson Stuart Webb Lelea Paea Anthony Tupou Ricky Stuart Coach