There’s no doubt of Friend’s quality — but is he a gamble? Photo: Phil Hillyard
There’s no doubt of Friend’s quality — but is he a gamble? Photo: Phil Hillyard

The worrying numbers confronting Jake Friend

ROOSTERS co-captain Jake Friend is firming to play in Sunday's NRL grand final at ANZ Stadium - despite having not played out an entire game of footy since round one.

If cleared by Tricolours medical staff, Friend will take on Canberra having played just 249 minutes of game time for the season.

In comparison, Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith has churned through 2097 minutes.

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Sidelined since round 18 with an ongoing calf problem, Friend has played only five games in total this year, and only two since round 7.

According to the Fox Sports Lab, the gritty 29-year-old has not survived a full 80 minutes since way back in the season opener, when the reigning premiers lost to South Sydney 26-16 at the SCG.

Should Roosters coach Trent Robinson roll the dice and play his co-captain, it will be his second such gamble in as many years - having also started star No.7 Cooper Cronk in last year's decider with fractured shoulder blade.

On Monday afternoon, Friend jogged onto the SCG for a light training run with a compression sock over his dodgy right calf.

This was the last time Friend went the distance. Photo: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
This was the last time Friend went the distance. Photo: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

According to Robinson, his skipper was extremely close to playing in last Saturday night's win over the Melbourne Storm, which would suggest another seven days will see him right.

As the week goes on, it is also understood both Friend and Roosters medicos are growing increasingly confident in his fitness - with the bigger question now becoming how a player with so little game time handles what shapes as a frenetic Homebush clash.

Especially too, in the most demanding position anywhere on the field.

Timing, fitness, even the rugby league version of "ring rust", it all comes into play.

That, and who falls off the Tricolours bench.

Certainly with Friend sidelined, replacement hooker Sam Verrills has been a standout for the reigning premiers, prompting suggestions the coach may choose to play both and omit, say, Nat Butcher.

Friend at training, with his calf supported. Photo: Brett Costello
Friend at training, with his calf supported. Photo: Brett Costello

Regardless, the Roosters captain has already been quoted publicly saying he is not only confident of facing the Raiders, but has vowed to push through all 80 minutes if required.

 

Yet according to those Fox Sports Lab numbers, Friend has so far done that only once in what has been a horrible year for injuries.

Again, in round one.

Next best figures for the rake as those 70 minutes he played against St George Illawarra in round seven.

Yet since that game, Friend has failed to survive even one whole game of footy, playing 58 minutes against the Gold Coast in round 17 and then just eight minutes against Newcastle in round 18.

He hasn't played since.

LISTEN! In the season finale, Matty Johns is joined by James Hooper and Paul Kent to go over this Sunday's grand final, plus how the build-up to the NRL's biggest weekend can weigh on the favoured team (and how the Roosters are counteracting it!).