After sneaking into the top eight in the last round of the NRL season, Sydney Roosters captain James Tedesco says his side can draw on the pressure of sudden-death football to advance to the second week of the finals.
Written off as premiership threat six weeks ago, a remarkable run of five straight wins propelled the Roosters into the top eight to set up Saturday’s elimination final away to Cronulla.
Tedesco’s men have spent the last month knowing if they took one misstep their finals hopes would be over.
But their premiership dream remains alive and with first-choice hooker Brandon Smith and halfback Sam Walker fully fit, Tedesco is hoping the Roosters’ run can extend into September.
“It’s felt like finals the last few weeks anyway, each game we went into we knew we would have to win,” Tedesco told AAP.
“It’s about maintaining that focus to keep going after it.
“At the start of the year we were losing close games, then we started to win them and then pick up wins against strong teams.
"Your confidence and belief definitely grows off the back of that."
The Roosters have developed a reputation for being slow starters in the NRL but with many players coming back off World Cup campaigns they took an alarming amount of time to click.
Midway through June, Trent Robinson’s men had the worst completion rate in the competition and scored the fewest points per game across the 17 clubs.
Tedesco’s form was heavily scrutinised, Walker was dropped, and Smith struggled with injury and adapting to life at a new club after his move north from Melbourne.
Joseph Suaalli’s switch to Rugby Australia and the contract circus surrounding assistant coach Jason Ryles undoubtedly added to the issues the Roosters have had to endure.
But now back at full strength, Tedesco declared the glamour club was all systems go.
"We had four or five different halfbacks throughout the year and guys have had to fill in at different roles in the team," Tedesco said.
"At the moment, this is definitely our best spine.
"It has taken us a bit of time to click, especially with Cheese (Smith) coming in.
"With time I feel we’ve got better and better, across the team through that opening 13 weeks I don’t think anybody was playing their best footy and we’ve started to gel."
Centre Joey Manu has been named to face the Sharks and will undergo a late fitness test on a hamstring issue.