Wing lines up against the Roosters for the second time this season – his first ended after just seven minutes, when a controversial hit by Riley Brown left him sidelined for almost four months. Wing admitted yesterday he was only now back to full fitness.
It’s just one sub-plot in a game with far more up for grabs than two points. Not only will this be Wing’s first match against the Roosters since the hit that wrecked his season – and that of his team – but it will also be the first occasion opposing five-eighth Braith Anasta has faced Kiwi David Fa’alogo since the latter punched him to the ground late last season. Fa’alogo was suspended for seven matches for the hit, and missed the round-one encounter, won convincingly by the Roosters.
Luke lit the fuse for more fireworks by claiming Wing would be targeted again, daring the Roosters to attempt anything against their playmaker. “Hopefully they’ll come out for him again, because we’ll be ready for it, and he’ll be ready for it,” he said.
Asked if he felt Wing would be targeted again, Luke said: “I think so. They were [targeting him] at the start of the year. They were always going to do it. I guess we just have to look after Wingy. But we’ll be all right.
“Wingy’s a high-profile player, and he knows what to do each time. He’ll be all right. But we’re there if he wants us. I guess it’s up to him, if he wants to protect himself or he wants us to protect him.”
Wing admitted he expected a torrid time against his former teammates.
“I’m no different to any other player that’s changed teams,” Wing said. “When I was at the Roosters, whenever we played against guys who used to play for us, we’d give them a bit of a niggle.
“But I don’t think it was an intentional kind of thing. That’s just footy. Things can happen. For me, it was a bit of freakish timing. It’s just bad luck.”
With Luke’s comments echoing between Rabbitoh and Rooster territory, Anasta said he expected Souths to lift their aggression after the hit by Brown, even if the Roosters hooker, who was not suspended over the “prowler” tackle, was not selected for round two himself.
“I think they’ll try and fire up over what happened to Wingy in the first match,” Anasta said. “But it wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t good – the poor bloke was out for half the season – but it certainly wasn’t our objective to take him out of the game.”
Besides, Anasta has his own score to settle, even if he maintains it won’t form any motivation for him. “I’ve never spoken to the bloke and I don’t intend to,” Anasta said. “He punched me in the head. Simple as that. That’s all there was to it. But there’s no animosity there. I really don’t care.
“He got me a good one. But we’ve got a lot more important thing to worry about than individual contests. It’s not even worth worrying about or talking about. That incident, I’ve moved on.”
Wing has, too, but only just. He says he is only now returning to top gear after the round-one injury, which forced him to undergo shoulder surgery.
“I feel like I’m just starting to have my game fitness,” he said. “I’m just feeling more and more comfortable with the games I’m playing. Unfortunately, the end of the season for us is coming around all too soon. There’s only two games to go. This is probably like round seven for me.
“[Round one] seems like last year. I’ve had a whole new off-season since then, a whole rehabilitation process. It ruined the start of my season, but what can you do?
“We’ve only got two more games left, and the season’s over. There’s nothing worse than going into an off-season on the wrong foot. And we are playing one of the top teams. If we can put in a good show then it leaves us with a bit of encouragement for the off-season.”