Are the Sydney Roosters planning one of the biggest gambles in NRL grand final history or is Trent Robinson playing mind games with Melbourne?
The Roosters on Tuesday raised the eyebrows of the rugby league world when they named Mitchell Aubusson at halfback for Sunday’s clash with the Storm.
With Cooper Cronk in extreme doubt because of a rotator cuff injury, Aubusson has been named in the No.7 jumper.
Cronk will be given up until kick-off to prove he is fit to face his former club and has been named in the No.23 jumper.
Sean O’Sullivan, who has just one game under his belt, was considered the most likely option and he could yet come into the team after being named on an extended bench.
Ryan Matterson, who filled in at five-eighth for three games late in the year when Luke Keary was missing, could also be shifted from the bench into the halves.
As expected, centre Latrell Mitchell and bench forward Dylan Napa have been named to return from suspension, while rookie Paul Momirovski has been named on the bench for what would be a farewell game before leaving for Wests Tigers.
Melbourne, meanwhile, named an unchanged line-up, with Billy Slater in his customary fullback position ahead of Tuesday night’s judiciary hearing.
Jahrome Hughes, Slater’s replacement should the veteran lose his bid to play in the grand final, has been named in the reserves.
Barring an unlikely late change, veteran forward Ryan Hoffman’s NRL career is over despite his miraculous recovery from a hamstring injury.
He missed selection for the preliminary final and has again been named outside the 17.
“It’s extremely hard but that’s rugby league,” he said.
“You can only have 17 on the footy field so I’m very disappointed but I can’t do much more than that.”
Described as the ultimate club man, Hoffman will put that disappointment aside to focus on helping the team win back-to-back titles.
Coincidentally, his replacement Joe Stimson was overlooked for the grand final last year having played most of the season.
“I’ve been professional for 16 years and I’m not going to stop being professional now,” Hoffman said.
“I still have a job to do and I’m very excited for the guys.
“They have given themselves a great opportunity and something that has become a bit of a norm for the Storm the last couple of years.”
Roosters starting side: James Tedesco, Daniel Tupou, Latrell Mitchell, Joseph Manu, Blake Ferguson, Luke Keary, Mitch Aubusson, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Boyd Cordner, Isaac Liu, Victor Radley.
Interchange: Dylan Napa, Zane Tetevano, Paul Momirovski, Ryan Matterson. Reserves: Lindsay Collins, Nat Butcher, Sean O’Sullivan, Cooper Cronk.
Storm starting side: Billy Slater, Suliasi Vunivalu, Will Chambers, Curtis Scott, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster, Brodie Croft, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Tim Glasby, Felise Kaufusi, Joe Stimson, Dale Finucane.
Interchange: Kenny Bromwich, Christian Welch, Brandon Smith, Nelson Asofa-Solomona. Reserves: Ryan Hoffman, Jahrome Hughes, Sam Kasiano, Cheyse Blair.