Instead of icing the pass, Tedesco threw the ball behind Cotric, who coughed up possession and therefore victory. “It’s on me,” a dejected Tedesco told reporters afterwards.
Robinson was watching at home in Australia, punching the air. Well, maybe not punching the air — but he liked what he was hearing.
“He had a great game — he just missed that play,” Robinson tells this column ahead of the World Club Challenge against St Helens on Sunday morning (AEDT). “When he said, ‘That was on me’, it typified his continual search for ‘better’. He expects more. The way he reacted was a snapshot into Teddy right there.”
Tedesco’s error at Eden Park was a reminder to himself that he can improve.
“Everybody probably thinks I should nail that pass every time, but it was a wake-up call to keep working hard,” Tedesco says. “Passing is something I need to keep working on. It’s not natural for me — running is. Passing and icing them every time is what I need to do if I’m going to be the best.”
More than any other player, Tedesco sits with Robinson in the video room for hours, searching for ways to improve.
First, he wants to save tries like the Warriors’ Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. “Roger saved a lot more than me last year,” Tedesco says. “I didn’t save enough, and Robbo is into me about that.”
Second, he wants to use the ball like the Knights’ Kalyn Ponga. “Robbo still gets into me about running at speed and passing and hitting the mark every time like Ponga does … All the other areas of the game, I’m good at. But I can get better.”
Which is reassuring to know because, at only 27, there’s not much more for Tedesco to achieve. He’s won two premierships, two Origin series with NSW and played Tests for his country.
Latrell Mitchell needed the fresh challenge of fullback at a new club. What’s left to drive Tedesco who has similarly done it all?
“I ticked off all the things I wanted in my career in the first two years here,” he says. “But there’s still time to create a dynasty here, and with the Blues. There’s no excuse why we can’t.”
Tedesco might want to improve his passing and defence, but his strength will always be his running. Last season, he looked like he was being steered around the park via Playstation console, swerving and moving direction at speed.
“Teddy has a good long stride and short stride,” Robinson says. “A lot of players will short stride to go forwards or sideways, but he is 360: he can go back, left, right, front left, front right, like a video game. He’s got the ultimate combination of speed and change of direction.”
During the off-season, Tedesco and his Roosters teammates celebrated their second premiership with a trip to the US, which included attending an NFL match between the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers in LA.
Like most of us, Tedesco marvelled at the agility of Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was named as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
“He was mad to watch,” Tedesco says. “Such a good runner of the ball, stepping and breaking tackles.”
While Jackson moves fluidly and naturally, it’s taken time for Tedesco to learn how to properly run without breaking his body.
When he first came on the scene, Phil Gould described his running style as “violent”. Tedesco himself reckoned he ran “too heavy” and he did, busting his ACL on debut for the Tigers, then suffering syndesmosis and then snapping his kneecap in half.
“When I run, I don’t have a plan,” Tedesco says. “I’m stronger off my right, because I’ve had all the surgeries on my left side. I’m right dominant. This pre-season, I’m trying to work more on my left.”
So there you go. The best player in the world reckons he can get much better, including a stronger left-foot step.
Good luck to the rest of the world — starting with St Helens — trying to stop him.
Camp Nou driving Roosters’ dynasty designs
The Roosters knocked back a request from St Helens to play the WCC in Sydney because they were desperate to spend time in Barcelona.
They won’t talk about it publicly, but the two-time defending premiers have modelled themselves on La Liga powerhouse FC Barcelona hope to build a similar dynasty in the NRL.
Barca is part of their on-field calls and off-field philosophies. Over four days, they attended a Barca match at Camp Nou, then toured the academy where Lionel Messi cried as a teenager for two years before becoming the best player in the world.
“You’ve shown us how we want to play and want to be as a club,” Robinson said at a jersey swap with FC Barcelona rugby team after a tour of Camp Nou.
Indeed, watching the Roosters from close range this week has been enlightening. They run their club like they’re a global sporting franchise.
Robinson has a crack team of assistant coaches, including former internationals Craig Fitzgibbon, Nathan Cayless and Matt King, as well as a platoon of high-performance specialists.
Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has also been lurking about at most sessions, picking up on things that Robinson might not see.
“A very well-oiled machine,” mused former Roosters prop Sam Moa, who now plays for Catalans, at an opposed session at Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium earlier in the week.
And then, of course, there’s the boss: all-powerful chairman Nick Politis has attended every session, resplendent in Roosters windcheater with “Member #1” on the sleeve.
Like anyone needed reminding.
NRL return still possible for Folau
It’s a touchy subject, of course, but the NRL has not shut the door on Israel Folau returning to the NRL next year.
Folau has told Catalans he is genuine about rebuilding his brand and reputation. It’s why coach Steve McNamara gave him a chance.
Should Folau get through this Super League season without repeating his anti-gay remarks on social media or anywhere else, it will be difficult for the NRL to block his return in 2021 — despite claims from chairman Peter V’landys that there is no place for him in the game.
Tooheys Nou hat turns up in Barcelona
The secret of the Travelling Tooheys hat can be revealed.
The hat, which has its own Instagram pages featuring leading rugby league players wearing it, has popped up at concerts, NFL matches and other locales all around the world.
At the weekend, it was spotted at Camp Nou.
“It started as a gee-up,” Tedesco says. “One of our mates bought it at a charity auction. It went for a few hundred bucks, I don’t know why. We wore it at our mate’s bucks party in Vegas. Then we started getting famous people to wear it. [Australian DJ] Fisher wore it. Then we took it away to the US and got [NFL star] Mark Ingram to wear it. It’s got a following.”
“They could play in the NRL. I think they’ll win.” — Former Rooster Jackson Hastings reckons St Helens will cause a boilover at Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday morning (AEDT).
A veteran News Corp journalist was listening so loudly to Tina Turner’s Simply The Best on a British Airways flight from Barcelona to London you could the song blasting out of his headphones two rows back.
Roosters players who visited Camp Nou at the weekend to watch Barcelona FC beat Getafe 2-1 reported superstar Lionel Messi looked at times slow and uninterested, adding to fears the Argentinian superstar is on the wane.
It’s a big World Club Challenge for …
Kyle Flanagan, who takes the field for the first time for the Roosters following the retirement of Cooper Cronk. Good luck to him.
It’s an even bigger World Club Challenge for …
England prop Luke Thompson, who has joined the Bulldogs on a rumoured $800,000 a season, lines up for St Helens.
The author travelled to Europe for the World Club Challenge as a guest of the NRL.
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.