Injured Friend may make finals return
FORMER Noosa Pirate Jake Friend has responded well to a season-threatening lung injury and may return in time to help Sydney Roosters push for another NRL premiership.
Roosters chief operating officer Brian Canavan said yesterday that the champion rake could be back within a "couple of weeks" after responding well to surgery that cleared blood from his lungs.
"There are no indications (about his return date) at this stage except that it will be a couple of weeks," Canavan said. "Now, what a couple of weeks is you can't really determine, but we're hopeful he will be back before the season finishes."
Canavan said the 24-year-old (pictured) was showing positive signs following surgery on his wounded lung, which was injured during Saturday night's win over Melbourne Storm.
Friend had a successful operation for the haemothorax on Sunday afternoon and may be discharged as soon as tomorrow.
"What the medical people are telling us is that the medical recovery is usually full and it's quite quick, particularly for a younger person and Jake is as a fit and as healthy as any athlete out there," Canavan said.
"I've spoken to his mother a couple of times as well as his partner and they both say that he's doing well.
"The fact he walked across the hospital from the main ward to general ward yesterday is a very good sign," he added.
His speedy recovery would be a boost in Sydney's attempt to become the first team since the 1998 Brisbane Broncos to win back-to-back premierships.
Roosters are currently in third spot and have clinched a top four berth, meaning they are assured of staying alive for the first two weeks of the finals, which begin next week.
Halfback Mitchell Pearce told Sydney media on Sunday that the Roosters would struggle without the in-form Friend.
Canavan said the playing group had been "very concerned" about their immensely popular teammate, who has become one of the team's vice-captains and part of coach Trent Robinson's leadership group.
"He's admired and all-but revered by the players for his mental and physical toughness and his work rate and every season he just gets better and better," he said.
"In the early parts of Jake's leadership it was leadership by deed and action but now he's actually got a lot more leadership by word as well.
"That's complementing his leadership role within the club and his team-mates have been very concerned about him.
"As professional athletes they just get on with the job anyway, but he's a player they all dearly love to play with, so they would be hopeful of a quick return."
The damaging blow has been helped slightly by news that back-up hooker and former Sunshine Coast Sea Eagle Heath L'Estrange will likely return early from a knee injury he suffered in Sydney's round 23 romp of the Tigers.