Aubusson will become the most capped player in the Roosters’ long history on Saturday night when he runs out in the red, white and blue for the 303rd time.
Minichiello, who played 302 games, and 301-game veteran Ricketson, will both be at the Sydney Cricket Ground for the special occasion.
“He belongs there when you look at the career he’s had – 100 per cent he belongs [in that painting],” Minichiello said.
“A fresh coat of paint is needed to add some new guys in there, especially Aubo,” Ricketson added.
Fittler told the Herald: “The benefit of having someone like an Aubo in there if you commission the painting is he shows how much the game has evolved with having that versatile player … he definitely wouldn’t look out of place now given he’s played more games and [potentially] won more grand finals than anyone else in that picture.”
Roosters’ chairman Nick Politis remembers the original painting, by Archibald Prize finalist Dave Thomas, and how it had cost him $65,000 at an auction. That’s chump change for a billionaire.
“It was an original. It didn’t fall off the back of a truck. I donated it to the club,” Politis said. “If we do another one Aubo might make it for setting the record.”
Aubusson looks at the painting nearly every day, appreciates the history, but says there is no way he deserves to be included amongst such esteemed company.
“That’s a high-class talented football team, that one. They all definitely have me covered,” he says. “I’m really proud I get to put the jersey on like the 1200 guys who have put it on before me. Their names are everywhere around the club. History hits you in the face every time you walk into the office.”
Aubusson, Ricketson and Minichiello remain good mates. They started a group text when Aubusson joined the exclusive 300-club last month.
Only 32, Aubusson maintains that had Ricketson not been suspended from the 2004 Grand Final, the Roosters do not lose to the Bulldogs, while he will never forget the day Minichiello suffered a syndesmosis injury in a game against Canberra but somehow stayed on the field, and even scored a try when moved to the wing.
He hated the fuss for his 300th game. He was oblivious to the ‘Aubo’ chants when he returned from a wrist injury against Newcastle last weekend.
Co-captain Jake Friend has played 261 games for the club, but will need at least another two seasons to give himself some chance of bettering Aubusson’s mark.
Luke Keary, another Rooster who will eventually deserve to have his own painting hung on one of the club’s walls, summed up the respect for Aubusson amongst the players when he said: “He’ll go down as one of the best players to ever play for the Roosters. He’s a really good footballer, can play anywhere and he’s stepped up in every single big game in his career. You know you’ll get an eight or nine out of ten every week. He’s rock solid.”
Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up here.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.