Manly win April 01, 2007. Round 03  Rugby League at Aussie Stadium Moore Park. Manly Sea Eagles v Sydney City Roosters .  Manly  win 30-8 . Mitchell Aubusson breaks the Manly defence to score the Roosters only try . (Photo by Craig Wilson)
Manly win April 01, 2007. Round 03 Rugby League at Aussie Stadium Moore Park. Manly Sea Eagles v Sydney City Roosters . Manly win 30-8 . Mitchell Aubusson breaks the Manly defence to score the Roosters only try . (Photo by Craig Wilson)

Hand of the King: Aubo enters Roosters royalty

When Mitch Aubusson made his NRL debut in March 2007, not a single member of Sunday's Sydney Roosters crop was around.

The team sheet for that round-one visit of South Sydney featured names like Anthony Minichiello, Craig Fitzgibbon and Craig Wing.

Current co-captain Jake Friend wouldn't join for another year and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves another two after that.

 

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A 19-year-old Aubusson didn't realise back then that he'd stick around long enough to overlap generations.

That the place he'd landed straight out of school would nurture a transition from unknown blond-haired Ballina kid to senior club figure and mentor.

The journey is now 13 seasons long, and Aubusson has seen somewhere around 100 players come and go from Moore Park, including older brother James.

He's witnessed debuts, milestones, retirements and controversies - though never his own.

And outlasted several punishingly inconsistent seasons - wooden spoon one year, grand final the next - before Trent Robinson's return as head coach with a "steely defensive attitude" heralded new, more competitive beginnings.

 

Aubusson and Mitchell Pearce celebrate winning the 2013 decider. Picture: Gregg Porteous
Aubusson and Mitchell Pearce celebrate winning the 2013 decider. Picture: Gregg Porteous

 

"Those early days were really tough days, a rollercoaster," Aubusson told The Sunday Telegraph.

"There's still a lot of people around the office who were here during those times. It's really good to see a smile on their faces after some success.

"You've got to think about those tough times so you appreciate these moments even more."

On Sunday, five days after his 32nd birthday, marks Aubusson's fourth grand final - and possibly third premiership.

It will be his 289th NRL appearance - 14 more and he'll surpass Minichiello (302 games) as most-capped player in the Bondi club's 111-year history.

 

LISTEN! In the season finale, Matty Johns is joined by James Hooper and Paul Kent to go over this Sunday's grand final, plus how the build-up to the NRL's biggest weekend can weigh on the favoured team (and how the Roosters are counteracting it!).

 

 

He'll have time to get there too, having signed a one-year contract extension in August.

Which is just as well, as he'd rather have retired than play for another club.

"This club demands success so you have to be in the right frame of mind to go after a game of footy," Aubusson said.

"I love that, it's something I've been doing since I was a kid and even at 30-odd years old I still feel I've got improvement in my game.

"That's the hunger I have to play each week. It's why I stayed on and played one more year and they were happy to keep me."

Robinson was more than happy to keep a versatile back-rower who step into the breach and does the small things that often go unnoticed, but noticed enough to make him a three-time clubman of the year.

It's telling that the coach has described Aubusson as "not the biggest guy, nor the fastest nor the strongest" but one who "gets himself to an intensity level every game where he gets the best out of himself".

In that sense, if modern-day Roosters royalty is the likes of Brad Fittler, Minichiello, Fitzgibbon, Wing, Adrian Morley and Luke Ricketson, then Aubusson is Hand of the King - quieter in influence but just as enduring.

"I don't go out there and look for the attention of the media and don't really do too much on social media," he said.

"I just like to work hard and better myself as a footy player and be a really good family man. They're important things to me. All the other stuff isn't."