Tom Trbojevic’s move to become the heir to the fullback throne at Manly has been seasons in the making.
Long before he was discussed as a potential Origin bolter this off-season at age 20, or even prior to him scoring a double on NRL debut against Canberra at age 18, Trbojevic had already been identified as a future star of the club.
His chance will finally come this season. With the Sea Eagles applying to the NRL for a medical retirement for veteran fullback Brett Stewart, Trbojevic will shift to the No.1 jersey on a full-time basis starting with the club’s season-opener against Parramatta at Brookvale Oval on March 5.
But even after all these years of preparation since he was first identified as a rare talent in the under-20s, Trbojevic isn’t taking the honour lightly.
“Brett Stewart is probably one of the best fullbacks to play for this club,” Trbojevic said.
“If I can do half the things he did in this game I will be very happy with myself. Obviously very big shoes to fill.”
Stewart won two premierships in his time at the Sea Eagles, scoring 163 tries – including a whopping 87 in 99 games at Brookvale Oval.
However, Trbojevic is already threatening to set a similar record.
In 32 NRL games of shifting between centre, wing, and fullback, he has already crossed for 18 tries.
He also has the potential to be lethal at the back.
He forced his way into a Manly backline after scoring 42 tries in 31 under-20s matches in 2014 and 2015 – once scoring a quadruple of tries and regularly running more than 300 metres in matches.
Even with Stewart at the back, Trbojevic’s potency saw him marked as a future Manly star.
He began training with the first grade team in late 2014 and has continuously had his contract extended by Manly, preventing any other club from poaching their future fullback as he continued to rise through the junior representative ranks.
But after an ankle operation returned him to training full-time over the off-season, Trbojevic is primed to finally claim the No.1 jersey that has long been reserved for him following a full summer as Manly’s chief custodian.
“It’s where I enjoy playing the most,” Trbojevic said.
“Getting the opportunity to start there and do my best there, I need to thank Trent (Barrett) for doing that.
“Him being a great player he’s helped me out a lot and knows what he wants for me and I know what he wants me to give so I’ll just be looking to do that.”