Roosters enforcer Victor Radley has become a vital cog in the transition from Cooper Cronk to Kyle Flanagan at No.7, iconic halfback Peter Sterling says.
The reigning back-to-back premiers faced a mighty task to replace Cronk, the dual Dally M Medallist, despite the presence of outstanding five-eighth Luke Keary.
They claimed their first win of the season on Friday, with lock Radley helping Flanagan to give Keary service on both sides of the ruck as they overpowered the Rabbitohs.
Flanagan, 22, is a superb talent but still has just 12 NRL appearances to his credit. He is a work in progress for triple premiership-winning coach Trent Robinson.
Sterling told Wide World of Sports that the Roosters were using Radley to take the heat off the Sharks junior at first receiver.
“Coming into this game, I was keen to have a look at Kyle Flanagan, as to how he was going to be moulded into this side,” Sterling said on Sterlo’s Wrap.
“A player like Victor Radley really helps, as well. Keary, they need for him to be able to play both sides of the field, as he did with Cooper Cronk.”
Sterling examined the Roosters’ opening try, in which Keary played the left side on tackle three, getting a pass from Flanagan; the right side on tackle four, getting a pass from Radley; switched back left on tackle five, as Radley again played first receiver; then put in a kick on tackle six that served as a try assist for flying winger Daniel Tupou.
“Keary needs to be able to play both sides, he plays that better than any other No.6 in the game,” Sterling said of the 2018 Clive Churchill Medallist.
“Victor Radley certainly helps out and he makes the transition for Kyle Flanagan into this game so much easier, the No.13.”
Cronk remains with the Roosters as a specialist halves coach. He played with Radley and Keary during the past two premiership seasons and is now mentoring Flanagan.
Radley, also just 22, has been invaluable to the Roosters during his young career.
He offered another option at hooker during the injury-affected 2019 season of co-captain Jake Friend and is one of the NRL’s biggest hitters despite playing at just 92kg.
He showed his versatility as a ball-player on Friday, delivering a line break assist among 14 total passes; half as many as Flanagan and Keary. He also revelled in his bread-and-butter role, making 47 tackles on top of 119 run metres.
Radley (24) made nearly as many passes as Flanagan (28) in a round two loss to Manly; he appears to be fine-tuning his involvement after throwing just nine passes in a round one defeat against Penrith. A 28-12 thumping of South Sydney last Friday suggested that the Roosters are on the right track.
Radley, touted as a NSW Origin contender, was charged with a dangerous throw after a big hit gone wrong on Rabbitohs winger Dane Gagai. He will fight the charge in an attempt to dodge a one-game ban, which would rule him out of an away clash against the Broncos on Thursday.
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