On Saturday night, Sydney Roosters hard man Lindsay Collins will for the first time in his career face off against Craig Fitzgibbon, the man he credits for setting him on the path from uncapped 21-year-old to Origin star.
Prior to taking the head coaching job at the Sharks this season, Fitzgibbon spent a decade getting the best out of young players like Collins as an assistant to Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
“Fitz is a great man who’s had a big impact on my career. I’ve got a lot of time for him,” Collins said.
“He guided me throughout my transition from being an NRL player one week and a NSW Cup player the next week to being in the NRL side week in, week out.”
Under Fitzgibbon, the Sharks have already risen from the mid-ladder logjam and into premiership contention.
The Sharks have conceded almost 100 less points this season than they had by this time last year and Collins said with Fitzgibbon in charge, it was little wonder.
“Fitz brought and emphasised defence here and I think that’s what (the Sharks) have done,” he said.
“They’ve generally just aimed up this year. It’s good to see. I’m looking forward to the battle on Saturday night.”
The Roosters are especially keen to get the win for utility Connor Watson in Indigenous Round this weekend.
Ahead of the clash, Watson, a proud Gamilaroi man, played a critical role in designing an Indigenous Round jersey like no other the Roosters had seen before.
Cultural Choice Association, the charity run by Watson and his family, teamed up with the Roosters, Indigenous artist Jordan Ardler and young Indigenous artists at Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre to design the jersey.“The piece of art is titled, ‘New Growth, New Hope’,” Watson explained.
“It’s all about these guys in juvie turning a new page, aspiring for more and wanting to make change in their lives.
“It was cool to be able to get those guys to paint something like this and be really proud of what they were able to do.”
Watson has a long history of doing great work in the Indigenous community and said he hoped Indigenous Round could be a starting point for his teammates and the public to learn more about Australia’s First Peoples.
“The buy-in from the boys is awesome,” he said.
“It’s a really good chance to educate everyone about our culture.
“(But) it shouldn’t just take a week like this for us to want to learn about it and want to be educated about it.
“It’s up to everyone to buy into it and learn more about the first people here in Australia.”