Reigning NRL premiers the Sydney Roosters must get their season on track without Sonny Bill Williams after he accepted a three-match suspension.
Under-par and well beaten in their NRL season opener, reigning premiers the Sydney Roosters must now get their title defence up and running without the services of Sonny Bill Williams for the next three games.
Williams took the early guilty plea on Monday following his shoulder charge to the head of South Sydney’s George Burgess in the Rabbitohs’ 28-8 win last Thursday at ANZ Stadium.
It is the second time Williams has been sanctioned for such a challenge by the match review committee since returning from New Zealand rugby.
He was banned for two games for a hit on former Canterbury teammate Willie Mason in the Roosters’ win over Newcastle last season and will now miss games against Parramatta, Brisbane and Manly.
In other judiciary charges, Roosters skipper Anthony Minichiello took the early guilty plea on a dangerous contact charge for a raised knee charge and will be available to play against the Eels on Saturday.
Souths playmaker Dylan Walker took the early guilty charge on a grade on tripping charge and is free to play in the Rabbitohs’ match against Manly at Gosford on Friday.
Meanwhile, Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough and Parramatta’s Peni Terepo have been charged with careless high tackles from the weekend, but both will be free to play in round two should they take the early guilty plea.
The Roosters beat Wests Tigers and lost to Cronulla during Williams’ enforced absence last year and now face an Eels side brimming with confidence following a superb win over the Warriors on Sunday.
The Eels have claimed the wooden spoon for the past two seasons, but demonstrated with their 36-16 success at Parramatta Stadium they may not be the pushovers of 2013 under new coach Brad Arthur.
It would be easy to draw comparisons with last year’s false dawn when they smashed the Warriors 40-10 and then went on to win just four more matches.
However, there was noticeable difference to the Eels under Arthur, whose defensive nous is widely credited with helping Manly reach last year’s grand final.
Under Ricky Stuart last year, the Eels slumped to an embarrassing 50-0 defeat to the Roosters in this corresponding fixture, but if Sunday’s defensive display is anything to go by it could be a much closer affair.
Robinson said it was far too early to panic, but he has already admitted he was fearful a disrupted pre-season could affect his side early in the campaign with 16 of his players involved in the Rugby League World Cup and reporting back to pre-season later than usual.
The Roosters looked uncharacteristically sluggish against Souths, whose adaption to the new rules to allow for a faster game appeared to caused numerous problems for Robinson’s side who struggled to cope with Souths’ numerous offloads.
There has also been suggestions key prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has struggled to shed some weight going into the new season after helping the Kiwis reach the World Cup final in November.
“It’s not been ideal, but we have put plans in place to try and overcome the pre-season changes,” Robinson said.
“We’ve tried to work out the impact it will have on the players later in the season while trying to get off to a good start.
“To do that you do a lot of predicting and we have spent many hours talking about it.”