Mitchell Aubusson has been named at No.7 fof Cooper Cronk if he is ruled out.
Mitchell Aubusson has been named at No.7 fof Cooper Cronk if he is ruled out.

Anasta calls Roosters’ ducks and drakes

AMID the drama surrounding Billy Slater, the fact the Roosters have named Mitchell Aubusson at halfback has gone under the radar.

With Cooper Cronk struggling to overcome his shoulder injury, the Roosters sprung a selection shock by naming Aubusson at No.7.

However Fox League expert Braith Anasta has rated Aubusson's chances of lining up at halfback at slim to none.

"No he won't play halfback," Anasta said.

"The big focus for the Roosters is their defence and they won off the back of their defence against the Rabbitohs.

"They will want to maintain that, so they will go into this grand final looking to win off the back of their defence, especially if Cronk isn't there."

The Roosters have been criticised for not respecting the grand final and its audience by naming a halfback, who has never played an NRL game at No.7.

However Anasta believes it is merely gamesmanship from Trent Robinson and the Tricolours.

"They could surprise us and he might play No.7, but I think it is just a bit of a curve ball," Anasta said.

"I think it probably a bit silly, but I don't think it is that big a deal.

"It's gamesmanship and I have known Aubusson for a long time and I know his game extremely well and he's not a passer of the ball and he certainly can't kick.

"If he played in the halves I'd be absolutely shocked."

The Roosters finished the season as the best defensive team in the competition, with the Storm coming in second.

The Roosters are conceding an average of eight points a game in the postseason and while their win over the Rabbitohs wasn't pretty, their defence was heroic and Anasta believes they will stick to what they know best.

"They are not going to change their structures and I believe they will keep Aubusson in the back row," Anasta said.

"They will probably put Victor Radley back to the bench because that has worked for them, with the impact he brings off their bench.

"With Latrell Mitchell in the centres, they are not going to move any of their key players in key positions in a big game.

"It just wouldn't make sense for them to do that and Trent Robinson is so defence orientated and so great at it, that I don't think he will put players out of position."

Cronk labelled himself a long shot to overcome the shoulder injury he suffered against the Rabbitohs, so if Aubusson doesn't play there then who will?

"I think it is a bit early to put Sean O'Sullivan in there," Anasta admitted.

"Momirovski played five-eighth throughout the grades and I coached him in the under 20s and he has been named on the bench.

"He might be an option, but I don't think he is quite ready to play a big game in the halves, so I reckon they will have to go back to Matterson.

"Matterson is a back-rower now, but he played his whole junior career in the halves, so if they can put him in there and maintain their structure and keep that balance, then that is what they will be looking to do."

How Luke Keary adapts to the chief playmaking role should Cronk be ruled out remains a point of contention.

Keary is considered a running five-eighth, who plays his best football next to an organiser in the halves, but Anasta has faith that he can handle the extra responsibility.

"He will handle it," Anasta said. "I have the utmost confidence in Luke. He is a sensational player.

"He plays the way he does at the moment because he has Cronk next to him, but that doesn't mean that he can't go to another level and change the way that he does play.

"He can control a game and focus a lot more on game management, but at the same time still play what's in front of him.

"He has an attacking style and he loves running the ball and he is a great instinctive player.

"He needs to maintain that and make sure that he still plays to his strengths, but he needs to make sure his game management is five star."

Anasta lost a grand final with the Roosters in 2010, so there is little doubt where his loyalties lie on Sunday.

However, whether or not Cronk plays will go a long way to determining the result, according to Anasta.

"If Cronk plays the Roosters win, Anasta said.

"But I don't think he will play and while I'm going for the Roosters, I think they will struggle if Cronk doesn't play.

"With Billy back in the side, I think the Storm will be too good."