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Friend rates as Roosters’ greatest tackler

Trent Robinson has hailed Jake Friend as the greatest tackler in the Sydney Roosters’ 113-year history as the club prepares to honour its retired captain.

The Roosters will dedicate Saturday night’s clash against Brisbane to Friend, with the SCG game to act as the hooker’s official farewell.

“He was the greatest tackler that played in the Roosters jersey, if not our game,” Robinson said.

“He did it over and over and over again for us. I think he averaged over 40 tackles per game over 260-odd games.

“That’s an achievement.”

Friend’s defensive workload stood at an average of 42 tackles per game when starting at hooker, completing more than 90 per cent that he attempted.

The Roosters’ unveiled their updated mural in Waverley on Thursday, with Friend’s portrait now alongside those of Boyd Cordner, Arthur Beetson and Anthony Minichiello.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end for Jake, but he will be remembered by the way he played,” Robinson said.

“He had a rough start and then he built himself into a real man, a real footy player.

“He won things which is an amazing part of the way he did things.

“But he played the game in a certain way that left a lot in the jersey for players that are going to continue to play.”

While Saturday night’s clash will celebrate the end of one career, all eyes will be on the start of another one.

The Roosters confirmed on Thursday that Joseph Suaalii would make his NRL debut, ending a two-month waiting game for everyone outside the club.

At age 17, Suaalii will be the first player to debut before his 18th birthday since Jason Taumalolo in 2010 and NRL laws were brought in to outlaw it.

Since getting an exemption in March to play Suaalii early, the Roosters have taken it slowly with the centre.

They first played him in reserve grade before having him spend match days with the team as the 19th and 18th man for the past month.

“It’s been really clear to all of us that Joseph has been ready for the last few weeks, and it’s time for him to start his journey in the NRL this weekend,” Robinson said.

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