Spine to put backbone into NRL Roosters

NSW star James Tedesco returns to bolster the misfiring Roosters after a post-Origin III break.
NSW star James Tedesco returns to bolster the misfiring Roosters after a post-Origin III break.

Out-of-sorts defending premiers Sydney Roosters are ready to begin a late season push when they unleash their first-choice spine for the first time since the opening NRL round four months ago.

Beaten in five of their last seven matches, the Roosters have dropped to fourth ahead of Saturday's home game with fellow finals aspirant Newcastle.

But they plan to turn that around after getting through a difficult period affected by injuries and Origin commitments.

Their key spine players - fullback James Tedesco, halves Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary and hooker Jake Friend - are reunited for the first time since they played together in the round one loss to South Sydney in mid-March.

Also back this week after being rested from the last-start loss to North Queensland in the wake of the Origin series is NSW skipper Boyd Cordner.

"'We've got a lot of hard work to do over the next month just to get back on the same page and get things flowing," said five-eighth Keary.

"I think the big thing for us is going to be the combination stuff."

Cronk refused to use injuries and representative call-ups as excuses for the Roosters' recent underwhelming form.

'"We'd love to be able to hide behind it and say 'Thats it,' " Cronk said.

"But to be honest, you don't need to be the NSW captain nor the best player in the (Origin) series to be able to able to make a tackle."

Cronk pointed out the Roosters surge to the 2018 title started around the same time last year, with the team winning eight of their last 10 games.

He said the key to success was players being selfless.

The veteran halfback accepted responsibility for last week's loss to North Queensland after missing two field-goal attempts and will practice that skill more than usual before before the Knights visit to the SCG.

Keary, who is two games back from his latest concussion episode, said he was still a couple of matches away from maximum sharpness.

He said he was feeling comfortable after recovering from his latest setback.

"I think the scary thing was the people around me were a bit scared, obviously seeing someone get concussed a few times is not the greatest look," Keary said.

"But I knew I was OK inside myself. I feel fine, I've done all the tests..

'"I know the club wouldn't put me at risk."

Australian Associated Press