James Tedesco says the Roosters will remain a threat without Luke Keary by declaring "I wouldn't take us lightly".
After an imperious start to the year, the Tricolours were in strife following Friday night's 26-16 loss to South Sydney with halves Keary (suspected ACL) and Lachlan Lam (MCL) suffering injuries.
Tedesco was shattered at losing Keary - arguably the team's most important player - potentially for the season. But he backed rising playmaker Sam Walker to handle the pressure if given the jersey.
"We're still a top side. I still wouldn't take us lightly," Tedesco said.
"It's hard to talk about that after a tough loss and we've lost a few players, but we've got a long turnaround now so we can definitely prepare as best we can and put our best foot forward next week.
Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Roosters
"Just seeing [Keary] there, he looks devastated. He hasn't got scans yet but we'll just have to wait and see. It's pretty sad."
So, is a talented rookie No.7 capable of directing one of the competition's heavyweights despite his only senior experience being a few reserve-grade games?
"He's got to be now," Tedesco said of Sam Walker.
"If we lose both our halves, someone's got to stand up. He's only 18, but the way he's started the year and the way he's trained the pre-season, he's definitely shown he's ready. We'll see how he goes."
Drew Hutchison, a half by trade who's done a solid job as a bench hooker, is a leading option to replace Lam at five-eighth.
Tedesco gets a much-needed try for the Roosters
Tedesco, already such an integral component of the Roosters' success, will also now shoulder more responsibility as stand-in skipper.
Much of the team's leadership group is now on the sidelines. Regular co-captains Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner are both recovering from repeated concussions with indefinite return-to-play timeframes.
"We've lost three of our captains now. It's not a great start missing those guys, but hopefully a few of them will come back soon. We're missing some big names and some leaders in our team," Tedesco said.
"I enjoy the [captaincy] role. I've just got to step up in that role and lead by example with my footy and communication."
Lock Victor Radley's long-awaited comeback from an ACL injury, which was delayed a week by a shoulder complaint, could not come at a better time for Trent Robinson's team.
Speaking after his side's loss to South Sydney, Tedesco again reiterated he had "no hard feelings" towards Jai Arrow after their State of Origin incident.
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The Roosters pack placed a clear target on Arrow, and Daniel Suluka-Fifita was sin-binned for punching the South Sydney prop during a first-half tackle. Suluka-Fifita was on Saturday charged with striking and is facing a two-week ban.
"There are no hard feelings from me, but some of the boys saw that and weren't too happy with it and showed a bit of emotion," Tedesco said.
"It cost us, we got a guy in the bin from it. [Suluka-Fifita] plays with aggression ... I think all the boys were trying to be aggressive – not against Jai, but against Souths.
"It's an area of battle and there's always a bit of fire in the belly."