Friend’s bravery wins him plenty of mates
JUST three weeks ago Jake Friend was undergoing surgery and a blood transfusion after suffering internal bleeding and losing almost half his blood following a match against the Storm.
On Friday night he racked up 42 tackles to help the Roosters hold out a fast-finishing Cowboys outfit 31-30 and sit just one game shy of a second successive grand final.
The former Noosa Pirate would have returned a week earlier had coach Trent Robinson allowed the hooker to have his way after he pleaded with the mentor to let him play in the semi-final against the Panthers.
Friend's absence was obvious during the back end of that match as Penrith rallied to seal an unlikely 19-18 victory.
The 24-year-old's penchant to get down and dirty was on show against North Queensland, however, as he put in one of his strongest performances of the year.
If he was hurting, he didn't show it.
Friend's willingness to put his own wellbeing aside for the betterment of the team was reminiscent of when former Rooster and current Falcons chief executive Chris Flannery played in the 2004 grand final despite being hospitalised just three days prior with a ruptured testicle.
Flannery recalled yesterday: "Craig Fitzgibbon said to all the boys before we ran out there (against Canterbury) that I'd just got out of hospital to play this one so let's not let each other down.
"I am sure the Roosters boys would have said something similar about Friendy before they ran out on Friday, to thank him for coming back."
Flannery said Friend's quick comeback was a testament to his character.
"I am sure the players know how tough he has been doing it and that ranks him right up there with some of the toughest players in the game," he said.
"For Jake to come back from such a bad injury and put his body on the line to get his team further into the finals is pretty inspiring."
Three-time premiership winner Steve Walters, a former mentor of Friend, said showing such commitment had the hooker primed for a long representative career.
"He's a quality player and always plays well no matter how he is feeling, and he did that on Friday night," Walters said.
"He has got a pretty good player in front of him at the moment (Queensland skipper Cameron Smith), but is doing the things that should see him get a lot of opportunities down the track."
The Roosters will face the Rabbitohs in a grand final qualifier next weekend.