Keary confident Smith can spark Roosters form
Luke Keary is adamant the Sydney Roosters shouldn't be written off as a premiership threat, insisting hooker Brandon Smith can overcome a slow start to life in Bondi and spearhead their charge up the NRL ladder.
Reeling from a 48-4 demolition at the hands of Penrith, the Roosters, who began the year as the hot tip to win the grand final, have slumped to a 5-5 start.
Trent Robinson's men sit in 10th spot and have the second-worst attack in the NRL this year, with only Wests Tigers enduring a poorer strike rate with ball in hand.
A spine shake-up hasn't stopped the rot and Keary looks set to line up against St George Illawarra on Friday with his third halves partner of the season.
Drew Hutchison is set to come in for the sidelined Joey Manu, who was shifted to the No. 6 jersey following Sam Walker's demotion to reserve grade.
"We are very realistic about where we are at," Keary said.
"We're not playing the footy that we want to play and that's disappointing.
"We understand this is a long season, you go on this journey as a team and when you go through these harder periods in a season, they can really steel you as a team.
"You can come out the other end and (it) can make you a really resilient side."
Manu (ankle) and Walker (knee) won't be fit to face the Dragons, but have avoided surgery.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves could face St George Illawarra after being cleared of a serious pectoral injury following the Panthers loss.
The match-up with the rudderless Red V should also give Smith the opportunity to prove his worth to the Roosters, with pundits including Andrew Johns and Braith Anasta flagging concerns over the Kiwi hooker's durability.
Since arriving from Melbourne last summer, Smith has struggled to recapture the form that made him the game's most-sought after No. 9.
Smith shared dummy-half duties at the Storm and looks set to replicate that in Bondi after starting the game against the Panthers on the bench.
"We have got to be better as a spine," Keary said.
"We're not scoring as many points as we'd like at this time of year but I have the utmost confidence and belief in the spine and the team.
"He (Smith) has come here and he probably hasn't played the way he has wanted.
"He turned the whole game for us against Souths and they're going pretty well at the moment.
"He's going to find over the course of his career at the Roosters that there are periods - when you go really well they (critics) will lift you up, and when you're not going so well you'll get the criticism which is warranted.
"Brandon is experienced enough to be able to deal with that and he'll come out the other end."