HE parks in the same car spot and sits at the same desk he did when his beloved Roosters were the powerhouse of the NRL.
But the challenge that confronts Brian Canavan in his second stint as chief executive is far different to the one he was thrown into in 2003 when he took control of a club that was at the pinnacle of rugby league. To liken the Roosters to a shipwreck would be a fair assessment of their past few seasons.
It was only 2½ years ago Brian Smith transformed the club from wooden spooners to grand finalists in the space of 12 months. They had what was considered the most promising crop of young players in the NRL and were fast earning the reputation as the game's premier entertainers.
St George Illawarra inflicted a 32-8 grand-final defeat and two years later, down went the ship. But as they prepare to set off on their maiden voyage under new coach Trent Robinson, there is a growing belief that this journey will bear the fruit of yesteryear.
"When I look back at the early 2000s, I see some similarities to this team," Canavan said. "We had the senior players like your Brad Fittlers and Luke Ricketsons. Then we had this big batch of players in their mid-20s and they were coming into their own - Mick Crocker, Ryan Cross, Craig Wing, Chris Flannery and Anthony Minichiello were all in that bracket. I see a lot of similarities in the balance we have now and what we had back then."
The average age of the Sydney Roosters side in 2003 was 23.96, while Robinson has taken over a squad with an average age of 23.68.
HOW TO KEEP SONNY BILL WILLIAMS
Securing the prized coup of Sonny Bill Williams was done before Canavan was reinstated as chief executive, but the task of ensuring the dual international remains a Rooster beyond the end of his one-year deal will be the top of his priorities this year.
Williams will join the Roosters in a fortnight after stints in Japanese rugby and boxing and will have less than a month to prepare for the start of the season. But Canavan has revealed the club will allow Williams the freedom to continue to explore his options in other sports - if it means he'll remain with the Roosters. "The sporting horizon has changed, and it's difficult for rugby league to accept that," Canavan said. "I'm from a traditional rugby league background, but I then have to open my mind about what modern-day sport is all about, and Alessandro Del Piero is a prime example. There is a lot more movement and a lot more flexibility needed to attract athletes.
"I accept Sonny's situation because it's just part of modern-day sport. What I'm comfortable with is that if Sonny does entertain the idea next off-season, he'll entertain it with balance. He won't say I want to do four fights a year, there'll be a balance. From what I've learned off Sonny since our pre-Christmas discussions, he's a real professional athlete both mentally and physically at 27 years of age. He'll only get better with his leadership role here at the club."
Williams had a huge impact at training, especially on the young players, in his brief time at the club before leaving to finish his rugby commitments in Japan. Canavan said there was no timeframe in his quest to re-sign the former Bulldogs back-rower, but is hopeful Williams will kick-start negotiations with his willingness to remain at the club.
"Sonny will be in demand, we know that," Canavan said. "But we have to make sure he's happy playing rugby league wearing a Roosters jersey. That happiness will come about by having really good structure, really good relationships and having success on-field. The club's at a real prime time right now and there's a future. We want him to say I'd like to be part of that beyond 2013."
It's quite a transition when you replace one of the longest-serving coaches in rugby league history with the most inexperienced in the NRL, but there's a genuine belief at the club that Robinson is the right man for the job.
Canavan was on the coaching staff during Robinson's playing days, and even back then it was clear a career in coaching beckoned for the young forward. "There are certain players that come through your journey that you just know are destined for coaching - Trent was one of those guys," Canavan said. "When he first came into the club as an 18-year-old front-rower, he was very inquisitive and he wanted to know why we were doing certain things. Not because he was questioning the methodology, but he wanted to understand and absorb the reasoning behind it." Robinson is the fifth coach of the Roosters in the past eight years. The players have developed a strong rapport with him since the start of pre-season in November.
GETTING THE BEST OUT OF MICHAEL JENNINGS
It was media speculation surrounding Michael Jennings' future that triggered an interest from the Roosters in luring the NSW centre from Penrith to Bondi. Quite content with their roster for 2013, the Roosters didn't initiate negotiations - or an interest in Jennings for that matter - until a week before Christmas.
Recruitment guru Peter O'Sullivan met Jennings over the break to discuss a future at the tricolours, a notion that has since come to fruition. "It all started from a few media reports," Canavan said. "He had this very big contract at Penrith and there were certain issues within their club that we didn't know about. It happened largely because of the media exposure of Michael's situation with Penrith."
While there was plenty of criticism of Jennings' attitude at the Panthers, Canavan believes the Roosters can get the best out of the 24-year-old. He sees Jennings as a leader of the team having the third most NRL experience in the squad, but also a leader away from the field for the Polynesian community.
"I'd like to see him develop as a leader for the people of his background," Canavan said. "A lot of players at his age don't see themselves as being leaders, but I'd like to see Michael develop to whatever comfort level he's got. It'll be part of his realisation that he's a leader in this club now. He's no longer just one of these young players on the up. He is an established leader and that adds a bit more responsibility about how he goes about his preparation and application."
RETAINING MITCHELL PEARCE
Canavan has given Roosters fans his assurance that the club will do everything in its power to keep halfback Mitchell Pearce. The NSW No.7 is off contract at the end of the season and has already attracted interest from St George Illawarra and Canterbury. But Canavan hopes Pearce will finish his career at the club. "I was here when he first came to the club and I can't picture Mitchell wearing another jersey," Canavan said. "I'd like to think Mitchell feels that way himself. I don't think we'll have stumbling blocks [retaining him]. I'd like to think Mitchell sees himself as a linchpin to taking us forward for a long period of time."
THE PROUD CAPTAIN
You could have understood if the Roosters handed the captaincy to Pearce as part of a plan to ensure he remains at the club beyond this season, but that was never an option. It was always going to be Anthony Minichiello, regardless of the fact he's the oldest captain in the competition - let alone on a one-year deal. "He had to be our captain," Canavan said. "I draw the parallel with Brad Fittler. Freddie had to be our captain - you didn't really know why, he just had to be. I have been around the club quite a while and have seen a lot of captains, but I haven't seen a prouder captain than Mini.''
The 32-year-old is five years older than the next oldest player in the squad, which happens to be Williams (27), and has more than 120 NRL games of experience than Pearce, who is second at the Roosters with 130 games. Minichiello (252 games) won't surpass Ricketson's club record of 301 matches unless he can extend his contract by at least another season. "You never say never with Mini," Canavan said. "He had the most severe of back injuries then he's back two-and-a-half years later playing for NSW, and now he's captain of the club. You imagine how many games he would've played if he didn't have four years off."