The Lesson From Minichiello That Inspired Tedesco
In Game One of the 2018 Holden State of Origin Series at the MCG, James Tedesco was unstoppable.
He ran the ball without fear or hesitation, breaking a record 17 tackles while posting 226 metres en route to a Man-of-the-Match performance that will be remembered for years to come.
Pinballing out of would-be Queensland defenders as if his life depended on it, his inspirational performance in the No.1 jersey drew immediate comparisons to former NSW fullback and Roosters maestro, Anthony Minichiello.
But while they each boast uncanny similarities in the way they brush through tackles and relentlessly run the ball from their own end, it's the resilience that Minichiello displayed throughout his injury set-backs that has taught Tedesco the most invaluable lesson.
"'Mini' saved his career and I remember back when I played with him at the World Cup - just how strict he was on his diet, stretching and how he looked after his body," Tedesco told NSWRL.com.au.
"From those years ago, when I had those injuries [myself], watching a guy like 'Mini' and the way he looked after himself was definitely something I took on board.
"That's what you can relate too, you can look at guys like Mini and the way he came back from serious injuries [is where] you can take confidence and motivation from.
"He's been a pretty good role model for me."
Tedesco boasts unrivalled speed and attacking flair - a direct comparison to his new Roosters mentor, who was noted as one of the most damaging broken-play runners of his era.
Having now established himself as one of the premier fullbacks in the competition, it's Tedesco's rather unheralded defensive organisation that has been one of the most impressive additions to his game.
It was a role that Minichiello became the master of when he returned from two career-threatening back injuries, and such is the evolution of the fullback role - which is now synonymous with some of the best athletes in Rugby League - that Tedesco now prides his best performances on his defensive work at the back.
"The big thing with 'Mini,' and 'Robbo' (Roosters coach Trent Robinson) as well - the defensive [movements]," Tedesco said.
"He was the best in the game when he was in his prime - when he was organising the defensive line and moving to save tries in the corner.
"I think I've still got a lot of improvement and that's something that me, 'Robbo' and 'Mini' talk about weekly, and that's sort of the big thing I've learned from him."
The Roosters' defiant efforts in defence this season has seen them concede two tries or less on nine occasions, and there is little doubt that Minichiello's influence on Tedesco has helped culminate the Tri-Colours into the best defensive team in the competition.
While the livewire fullback will pose as a constant threat for Queensland at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday night, rest assured that the man destined for the Australian fullback jersey in coming years will work tirelessly with the ball-in-hand, but also without it.