Club great Luke Ricketson has urged the Sydney Roosters to start Boyd Cordner and Luke O’Donnell in Sunday’s NRL grand final despite the injury cloud hanging over the pair.
The star forwards both trained with the team on Wednesday at Moore Park, making it increasingly likely they’ll overcome their respective fitness concerns and be late inclusions to face Manly in the decider.
Cordner is aiming to return after seven weeks on the sidelines with a broken ankle, while O’Donnell missed last week’s preliminary final with a hamstring strain.
Roosters’ premiership winner Ricketson fought through serious injury to play in both the 2000 and 2002 grand finals, and has already spoken to Cordner and O’Donnell about their preparations.
Ricketson is confident both will play and said coach Trent Robinson should go one step further and inject them immediately into the starting side.
The 40-year-old said their impact in the early exchanges could be telling and the Roosters’ couldn’t afford to risk their bodies cooling down after the warm-up.
“I’ve seen a lot over the years with injuries that you’re better off getting him out there instead of sitting him on the sideline and cooling down after a warm-up or worrying about the injury,” Ricketson said.
“Get (Cordner) through the warm-up and get him out there for the first 20 minutes and if he’s playing well and sticking to his job you keep him out there.
“The Manly pack will come out and challenge the Roosters … and that will really spur (O’Donnell) on. He’s an intimidating player and I think he’s got to be in there in the first 10 minutes.”
Neither Cordner or O’Donnell was named in the Roosters’ 17-man grand final team, but after both running on Friday they appear set to be called up – probably at the expense of young forwards Dylan Napa and Isaac Liu.
Superstar Sonny Bill Williams was a spectator at training on Wednesday, wearing a compression sock and tape on his left leg.
Williams played through calf soreness leading into the finals and also battled food poisoning last week, however the dual international would appear to be a certain starter in what could be his last game of rugby league.
Ricketson was little better than a 50/50 proposition when plagued by hamstring injuries ahead of the ’00 and ’02 grand finals.
However, from personal experience he’s been able to advise young gun Cordner and experienced journeyman O’Donnell, that they can’t afford to miss such an opportunity if they’re anywhere close to full fitness.
“You’ve just got to get yourself there for grand final day,” he said.
“I remember in 2002 I was never playing all week and two days out coaching staff gave me until game day to make a decision. Looking back now if I watched them do the victory lap (without me) I would have been devastated.”
Ricketson admits that for the injured player there’s an element of worry that you could let the team down, but he believes there’s far less risk of that in the modern game.
“In the old days there was a mentality of making your own mind up a little bit. But the medical staff are a lot more scientific and technical than that,” he said.
“I think a clearance from the club will give you the confidence you’re going to be OK on the day.
“Boyd has been out for a while but he’s young enough and good enough to push through it.
“He thought he could have played last weekend … Luke had a twinge last week but with treatment this week I think he’ll be fine.”