NRL: Focus on game, not hype, coach tells Roosters

By Ian McCullough

Sonny Bill Williams is likely to face a hostile reception from Bulldogs fans at tonight's match. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams is likely to face a hostile reception from Bulldogs fans at tonight's match. Photo / Getty Images

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has ordered his players not to be sucked in by the hype surrounding tonight's clash with Canterbury.

The Bulldogs' visit to Allianz Stadium marks the first time Sonny Bill Williams will face the club he sensationally walked out on midway through the 2008 season for a lucrative contract with French rugby side Toulon.

None of the current Bulldogs players played alongside Williams and this week skipper Michael Ennis played down the significance of facing him.

However, the Canterbury supporters haven't forgiven their former hero and are certain to give him a hostile reception - with 10,000 tipped to make the trip across town for the game.

Robinson said his players were affected by the enormity of the round-one opener against South Sydney which marked Williams' return to the NRL.

Souths ran out comfortable 28-10 winners that day but Robinson believes the side have improved since then despite throwing away two points at Canberra last Sunday having led 16-0 at halftime.

However, he admits the preparation for the game in round one wasn't the best. "We haven't talked about the Bulldogs or Sonny or the stuff," Robinson said.

"I just think the amount of media that we did, and the hype, especially me as the coach for the first game, I probably did a little bit more than I wanted to.

"We talked about the what ifs a little more than getting the job done.

"That's been the focus this week for myself and the team - let's not talk about it too much: let's get the job done."

Williams has been an instant success since his return, scoring two tries in five games and producing some stellar defensive displays.

Roosters skipper Anthony Minichiello has been amazed at how quickly his teammate has adapted having been away from the game for so long.

"He's been outstanding for us at stages in defence and in attack," Minichiello said.

"He's definitely fitted in a lot quicker than everybody thought.

"When he came at the back end of pre-season, he was preparing and wanting to come back and play well from the very first game and that's held him in good stead."

Canterbury have endured a wretched start to the season, winning just one of their five games.

The minor premiers lost only six games last year and a fifth defeat would be a severe dent to their hopes of topping the ladder in September.

Centre Josh Morris said he was confident the alarming form slump could be addressed, but conceded tonight is a must-win game.

"We really need to get back in the winner's circle, and this will be a very good place to start," Morris said.

"There is a lot of talk about Sonny, but we can't just focus on him. They are a fair side with some great other players."

Tony Williams has copped criticism for some under-par displays since his move from Manly.

He will go head to head with Williams on the right edge and Morris tipped his Kangaroos teammate to come good.

"There's been a fair bit of it [criticism] lately for T-Rex, but I can't fault him - his effort has been there," he said. "Coming across from Manly, it has probably taken a bit of time for him to get used to.

"But also, sides aren't stupid and they know - when he gets a wind up - he can really hurt them and they have done well to keep him quiet."


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