Radley returns, Madge makes Tigers sweat
Victor the Inflictor is back.
Hard-hitting Sydney Roosters forward Victor Radley returned to pre-season training on Monday after missing the final 15 matches this year when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
Tongue out and with a cheeky smile, Radley is man to inject some grunt and steel into the Roosters after his shattering ACL injury against St George Illawarra in late June.
Radley is the player many believe the Roosters most missed as their charge for a historic three-peat fell away through successive finals losses this year.
Kayo is your ticket to the best sport streaming Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Still just 22, Radley has become one of the NRL's most powerful forwards and was travelling headfirst into State of Origin before the injury.
Radley, Lachlan Lam, Sam Walker, Matt Ikuvalu, Freddy Lussick, Sitili Tupouniua and new buy Adam Keighran were among the Roosters player to attend day one of training for 2021. Teenage sensational Joseph Suaalii didn't train.
"It's good to see 'Rads' back out there. He is five months post (surgery), so there is still a fair bit of work for him to do," said Roosters coach Trent Robinson. "But (Monday) was the first time in a while where he got back into a full session.
"It won't be a full session all the time but he is starting to get his hands on the ball and get back into team footy, which he has missed for quite a while. But there is still another four months to go.
"The boys like him and he loves having a good time, but he also sets standards on the way to act very quickly. That's important for that to get passed on to the young guys. It's great to have him back on day one."
Players trained and held meetings with Robinson as summer off-season training started to ramp up.
The Daily Telegraph understands Robinson may look to start the season by shifting NSW star Luke Keary into halfback with Lam at five-eighth.
"I haven't sat down with Luke but obviously we have made a choice in the halves (Kyle Flanagan being offloaded to Canterbury) and I have a couple of options there with Lachie (Lam), Drew Hutchison, Sam Walker and Luke. We have to work out the seven and six there," Robinson said.
Robinson was reluctant to discuss teenage newcomer Joseph Suaalii, who has attracted more coverage than any other player yet to play NRL.
"I probably won't go into Joseph. There's been enough talk. It's not the time for me to talk about him, it's time for me to coach him," Robinson said. "Getting him through the doors is the first thing."
Pressed on where Suaalii might play, Robinson said: "I haven't even seen him move yet. I won't be talking too much in the papers about Joseph. That's not what he needs - he needs coaching."
Robinson also claimed skipper Boyd Cordner was "good."
Cordner was concussed five times this year, raising serious concerns about his future in the game.
"He has been away and he's back this week from holidays. He is relaxed," Robinson said. "He will continue to see the doctor. He has a couple of tests to go and we will get a report on that."
TIGERS 'RIP IN' TO STOP THE ROT
There's only one way out when you've finished 10th, 15th, 13th, 16th, 9th, 14th, 9th, 9th and 11th over the past nine miserable seasons.
"We just have to rip into training and keep improving," Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire said.
The full squad returned to training at Concord on Monday, still 104 days before their Round 1 match against Canberra in 2021.
And when you're an underachieving club which has failed to reach the finals since 2011 then players can expect some summer hard yakka.
Training in late November may seem early but that comes with missing the finals - again.
"There is a good feel around the joint, we just have to rip into training and keep improving," said Maguire, who dismissed speculation his club was interested in Mitchell Pearce.
"We know there is a lot of work we need to do. That's where we're at. I've got an environment where we want to be high performance and build players who really enjoy playing and playing at their best. That is what we're providing.
"The senior guys have come in with a real smile on their faces. It's actually good to see them. It's really exciting to be back with all the players. We are building. We have had a bit of change but change brings great opportunity."
Asked about outside suggestions he is a hard taskmaster, Maguire said: "I just deal with the players. That external stuff … all I care about is my players and wanting to provide them the best chance to be the best players they can be. I focused on building each player."
New buy Joe Ofahengaue will start training next week, as will centre Paul Momirovski who has been on loan at Melbourne.
Recruit James Tamou may not resume training until early next year given his previous club, Penrith, played in the October 25 NRL grand final. It is unknown just yet when new centre James Roberts will commence training.
"There is a lot that goes on within a club and in any organisational business and we are putting things in place every day to make sure we are in a better place. While we are doing that, there are a lot of exciting things going on around the club," Maguire said.
"We are looking forward to what's ahead. We are all working towards the common goal of every team and we are putting things in place to make sure the foundations and there for where we want to get to."
While the Tigers have recruited well, the club has lost several top-line players including Harry Grant, Josh Aloiai, Matt Eisenhuth, Robert Jennings Chris Lawrence, Benji Marshall and Elijah Taylor.
Maguire said his club had focused hard on developing and nurturing talented kids from the club's vast junior area.
"There are a number of younger kids progressing through for us and there a few new signings so there is a fair bit excitement around the club," Maguire said.
"We are building our pathways within the club, it's exciting and we are working hard in that area to build longevity. We want more coaches and infrastructure around our junior players coming through.
"I want a lot of homegrown players playing for Wests Tigers. We have a great catchment area at Campbelltown, right out through Camden, Picton, through Balmain, all those areas.
"The opportunity for our younger players to come through is something we are building here as well."
Originally published as Radley returns, Madge makes Tigers sweat