“Whether you call that loyalty, any smart coach will know how much it helps having the same players who know each other’s voices and each other.
“That’s why the incumbents always get the best look in.
“We’ve had a few changes since I’ve started, we have some really good depth at the moment, which is good and bad for our team, but we’ve had that core group of 10 or so players the past couple of years.”
Fittler said the one player who would have benefited most from the COVID-enforced break from the NRL competition was Cordner.
“It’s been a long time since he’s had time away from everyone, and he’ll come back the freshest,” Fittler said.
Cordner himself said the only reason he missed the opening two rounds for the premiers was rest – not injury – and he was always scheduled to return for the round-three grudge match with Souths.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson made a point of managing Cordner’s workload during the Origin period last season, and also gave him a spell from this year’s World Club Challenge against St Helens.
“It was always the plan to miss a couple of games, it was a plan the medical staff and everyone at the Roosters had come with, and it’s something I’ve needed for a long time, just that proper pre-season and getting the load into my legs and body,” Cordner said.
“I’ve had rep footy at the end of every year, I’ve slowly deconditioned myself and that’s why I’ve had a fair few niggling injuries the last couple of years. I don’t want to be missing games for the Roosters.”
As for surviving Origin and meeting Queensland three times in the space of 15 days – not the normal six-week time-frame – Cordner said: “It will be fine, it will be the Origin series, we won’t have the NRL moving forward so we can we fully concentrate on that series and the back-to-back games. When you think of the hype around an Origin game and how much energy it takes out of you, that will be the only thing going back-to-back, but I’m pretty sure bigger squads could come in. We’ll be fine.”
The Roosters have always had several players plucked away for Origin duty, and Robinson has been forced to rest his stars when they return. By holding the series as a one-off end-of-year blockbuster, Cordner said there was no “silver lining” for the Bondi boys and every club would benefit from not losing players in the middle of club duty.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.