Mitchell Pearce calls Jared Waerea-Hargreaves the team's “everything”. Boyd Cordner describes the Roosters enforcer as a “natural leader”.
In a breakthrough 2013 season, Waerea-Hargreaves lived up to his potential and became arguably the most dominant prop in the NRL. He was also elevated to the Roosters' leadership group and captained the side in Anthony Minichiello’s absence.
While Waerea-Hargreaves’ football ability has never been questioned, even he doubted his credentials as a leader.
“When I first came to the club there was not one leadership quality that I could show,” Waerea-Hargreaves’ said of his arrival from Manly in 2010. “I was pretty erratic and time management wasn’t my favourite thing but I guess you learn as you get older.
“Some senior players leave the club. You look around and see who is next and a couple of fingers point at you. It’s good to see that we’ve got a whole heap of youth in our leadership that show great qualities.
“Leadership is something that comes with maturity. I’m 25 now so you hope you’re getting a little bit mature. I am just trying to get out there and do my part. I’m not much of a talker when it comes to a big group, but I try and do my thing in actions.”
Waerea-Hargreaves is joined as a vice-captain of the Roosters alongside Cordner, Pearce and Jake Friend. Pearce said the presence of the front-rower was key in the team's success last year.
“Jared is everything for us,” Pearce said. “When he winds up and gets a roll-on everything comes off the back of it.
“His effort in defence for a big guy is as good as any front-rower. Sammy Burgess is probably up there. They are on par. He is our go-to man and definitely one of our enforcers.”
Waerea-Hargreaves’ growing maturity was on show in round two when he failed to retaliate to a high shot by Parramatta’s Darcy Lussick.
Now Waerea-Hargreaves, who is contracted to the club until the end of next year, is so entrenched in the club’s leadership that he is a genuine contender to take over from Minichiello should the Roosters veteran retire at the end of this season.
“I didn’t actually aspire to be a captain of any side,” Waerea-Hargreaves said. “It was a massive honour for me and my family to captain the side. It was definitely different. Having the responsibility of talking to the ref instead of the refs telling me to go away. I was actually allowed talking to them. I found that pretty cool and I enjoyed it.
“When Minsy [Minichiello] leaves I’ve got confidence in our leader group; it doesn’t matter who gets that captaincy job it’ll be under control.”
The Roosters will again call upon Waerea-Hargreaves for their grand final rematch against Manly on Friday night. The Sea Eagles' pack is vastly different to that which lost last year’s premiership decider with Brenton Lawrence the only front-rower to back up. Brent Kite, George Rose and David Gower have all left the Sea Eagles while Jason King will again miss opposing the Roosters because of suspension.
The Roosters have a suspended Sonny Bill Williams and the retired Luke O’Donnell missing from their premiership-winning team.
Cordner said Waerea-Hargreaves can intimidate the opposition.
“He is one of the best forwards in the game,” Cordner said. “When he is on, I don’t think anyone wants to play against him.
“He is a natural leader and is awesome for our team and gets a lot of our go-forward.”