Cameron Smith’s retirement has sparked debate about the best player of all time, but there can be little doubt about who is the best right now.
James Tedesco currently holds the mantle. Against a hapless Manly, he underscored why. A few weeks ago he released a children’s book, Hat-trick Teddy. At the Sydney Cricket Ground on a balmy Saturday evening, it proved an apt title.
James Tedesco attempts to give Curtis Sironen the slip on Saturday.Credit:Getty
There were the three tries he scored himself and the two he had a hand in, but that only told part of the story. The Roosters fullback put on a masterclass, while the Sea Eagles face the harsh reality of life without their own superstar No.1.
Is there anything Tedesco can’t do?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes. For the first time in his career, the former Tiger was given two shots at goal. Both sailed wide of the uprights and he was hooked from the duties. They were his only blemishes.
Tedesco’s first touch set the tone. On a ground where AFL is the dominant football code, he rose above Reuben Garrick and came down with a Luke Keary bomb for the opening try. The game was just three minutes old.
The NSW and Australian custodian didn’t have to wait long to secure his brace, a solo effort that showcased both his left- and right-foot steps. The game was over as a contest well before he backed up for his third.
These were the highlight plays, but there were other valuable contributions that warrant mention. Like when Daly Cherry-Evans put in an awkward grubber kick into the Roosters in-goal, the sort that gives opposition fullbacks nightmares. Instead of going for the safe play and grounding the ball, he let it roll over the dead-ball line. What would have been a line drop-out became a seven-tackle set.
In Des Hasler’s side was a familiar face, as well as a familiar problem. Kieran Foran made a welcome return and set up his side’s only try. Tom Trbojevic, however, was again watching it all unfold helplessly from the sidelines. Hasler pulled his first swifty of the season by naming Dylan Walker at fullback and fooled everyone about his intentions by actually playing him there. But like Tedesco, Trbojevic is irreplaceable.
Foran came off the field late in proceedings with a cork injury and is in doubt for the Rabbitohs clash.
“I feel a bit sorry for the fans in particular,” Hasler said.
We need to give a better account of ourselves, of themselves individually for the club and the fans. We need to make that pretty quickly.
Brett Morris also had a day out. Morris secured a hat-trick of his own, rising above Andrew Ettingshausen to climb into fourth place, with 168, on the all-time tryscorers’ list in the process. It was a good day for the family, with twin brother Josh also scoring a try.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves appeared unimpressed with the decision to relegate him to the bench and failed to properly channel his aggression. The Kiwis prop was placed on report for elbowing Curtis Sironen, a manoeuvre he performed while in possession of the football. His side can ill afford to miss him, especially after Jake Friend was concussed in an ugly head clash with Andrew Davey.
This could become a big story going forward. Friend has suffered numerous head knocks throughout his career, raising concerns that he could join Boyd Cordner for a long stint on the sidelines.
Asked how concerned he was for the career of Friend, Roosters coach Trent Robinson said: “I’m concerned he came off the field, pretty simply.
“I’ve seen him for two minutes and I’m not a doctor. Making a big statement like that is not for five minutes after a game.
“It’s a concussion, it’s not what we wanted for him in the first round. We’ll get on with the protocols and see where he is at.”
The season is still so young, but such a result will ring alarm bells across the northern beaches. Things may not immediately improve; their next assignment is against South Sydney. The challenge now is to remain in contention until Trbojevic returns.
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