GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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Not since Fittler's playing days ended in 2004 have the Roosters played with such confidence, and Minichiello says it is a result of the former five-eighth's influence since taking the head coaching reins late last year.
The Roosters custodian believes the tricolours' defence is now on par with when they dominated the NRL in the earlier part of this decade, while their attack is starting to gain the fluency it once had with Fittler running the show.
"It definitely felt like our defence was where it was a few years ago when Freddy was playing," said Minichiello about last week's 10-6 win over premiers Melbourne.
"Our attack has a little bit more to go. Sometimes it's a bit disorganised when we're attacking to score a try but I think it is building nicely.
"When we came into preseason Freddy said it would take us a while to work out how each other plays.
"We've got some new players but we're going pretty good at the moment.
"We still have a little bit to go in working each other's games out but week after week we're getting there."
The return of the Roosters' confidence could not have come at a better time ahead of Friday's grudge match with the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
While no rivalry could match the long-running stoush with South Sydney, Minichiello said the heated feelings between the Roosters and Bulldogs are exacerbated by resentment from six years ago.
Minichiello said blue-and-white diehards can't get over the fact the Roosters won the 2002 premiership when the ladder-leading Bulldogs were stripped of their competition points for rorting the salary cap.
"We've had a healthy rivalry since `02 when they sort of got knocked back to the bottom of the table and we ended up winning it," said Minichiello.
"Obviously they were on top of the table and they were going great guns, then it got taken away from them.
"Naturally they thought they were going to go on and challenge for the cup.
"But that was back then, this is now and we've got a couple of their players.
"It's been a good rivalry and now (Willie Mason joining the Roosters) has re-sparked the rivalry."