For all the injuries, suspensions and farewells the Sydney Roosters have endured in 2021, coach Trent Robinson knows the setbacks can only make his NRL club a stronger outfit going forward.
The Roosters’ season came to a disappointing end in Mackay on Friday, thumped 42-6 by a merciless Manly team in the first-ever semi-final to be played in the north Queensland town.
Friday’s performance at BB Print Stadium left a bitter taste in Robinson’s mouth but he could only reflect on the achievement of reaching the second week of finals in a year when so much has gone wrong for his team.
Leaders Boyd Cordner, Brett Morris and Jake Friend weren’t on the pitch, the trio all having called time on their NRL careers during 2021 as bodies failed them.
Josh Morris, meanwhile, got to the finish line – where Cordner was waiting to embrace his teammate.
Morris walked off the field on Friday night to join his twin brother in retirement, with Brett quickly paying tribute on Instagram.
“What a career, love ya bro,” Brett wrote on Instagram.
Josh replied: “We did it together, wouldn’t change a thing. Love ya bro.”
The retirements of Cordner, Brett Morris and Friend followed Luke Keary and Lindsay Collins having their seasons ended by ruptured ACLs in round three.
Teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii’s rookie year was halted by a foot injury while Joseph Manu’s cheekbone was busted on the eve of the finals.
The hits kept coming leading into Friday’s must-win final with Sam Verrills suspended and Sio Siua Taukeaiho sidelined with injury.
It’s a recipe Robinson admits he’s never before had to deal with as a head coach.
“It’s the craziest coaching year I’ve had,” Robinson said.
“To retire absolute legends of the game. To see the injuries that we’ve had.
“Every game was a new combination and a new task, but the attitude of the guys to go about that was incredible, every week was ‘rightio, we can do this’.”
In the absence of so much talent, new stars have emerged including teenage half Sam Walker and Robinson says the experience and responsibility given to those players can only be a positive for the Roosters’ future.
“We’re a greater Roosters club than what we were at the start of 2021, now at the end of 2021,” he said.
“They’ve done our club proud the way the way that they’ve gone about it and we’re a stronger club because of the way that they’ve acted this year.
“We’re a better team because of the way we handled this season.”