Stacey Jones capped off a perfect weekend for the New Zealand Warriors with news he is fit to retake the field.
Jones said after the Warriors had snatched a 26-24 win over the Roosters yesterday that he would be back in action for the match against West Tigers at Ericsson Stadium in Auckland on Saturday.
He said he had pulled out of contention for the Roosters' match on Saturday, with the groin injury he suffered five weeks ago still troubling him.
"I was a longshot anyway," he said.
Jones' return gives coach Daniel Anderson an unusual problem in that his less-heralded squad members have put their hands up in Jones' absence.
Players such as Jones' replacement at halfback, Sione Faumuina, whose smart grubber kick set up winger Francis Meli for the winning try yesterday.
"The blokes are definitely going up another level," Jones said. "They're sniffing semi-final football. We had a taste of it last year."
Anderson, happy after the win at Aussie Stadium yesterday, said he had spoken to Jones about his return to the team.
"The danger is Stacey comes back and we all sit back on our heels instead of them backing themselves and letting Stacey come back into the team seamlessly instead of making him the focus again. We have to welcome him back quietly instead of expecting too much of him."
Anderson was impressed with his players' commitment in coming from behind to grab a win against the Roosters, who twice last year put the Warriors to the sword, racking up 74 points for only eight against.
He said revenge for the final last year was not a factor in their motivation for yesterday's match.
"It was more about us being able to compete with them and get rid of some demons about how they have towelled us up on the last two occasions we have played them.
"We are playing with a lot of motivation and effort and attitude. Except for the last 40 against Newcastle we have had a real crack in the last four matches. And the rewards are showing it. We are putting more bodies in motion, scoring a few more points and generally we are hitting a bit harder as well."
Anderson said it was too early to rate the Warriors' chances of making the grand final. "We've just got to calm down, it was a good win and we should not get too excited."
The team had the Tigers match to concentrate on and would look at the finals series after that. They are likely to finish sixth if they beat the Tigers, but could sneak into fifth place if the Melbourne Storm lose to the Manly Sea Eagles.
"We've got to work pretty hard from now on," Anderson said.
Rival coach Ricky Stuart praised the Warriors for their spirit and said he was impressed at how they stuck to their task at the end, which had not been the team's strong point in past seasons.
But Stuart wasn't convinced referee Tim Mander had got it right when he ruled in the last minute that Rooster Nathan Cayless had illegally stripped the ball from Awen Guttenbeil. The Warriors were able to hold on to the ball from the resultant penalty until the final whistle.
"That decision that he made very late in the game was important. I hope for his sake he got it right. I have to look at the video. If he did get it right it was good refereeing."
There has been much publicity about the Warriors' aggressive approach in recent weeks and they had three players placed on report yesterday. Henry Fa'afiili and Thomas Leuluai were cited for lifting in a combined tackle, while an apparent high shot by Francis Meli on Roosters fullback Anthony Minichello was also to be looked by the judiciary commissioner today.
Neither coach had any complaints about the physical nature of the game. Anderson said it was a confrontational sport.
"I think both coaches demanded their players get stuck into the game and both teams did."Like