Manly Sea Eagles or Northern Beaches Bin Chickens?

Tom Trbojevich
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

Tom ‘Turbo’ Trbojevic, despite being just 25-years-of-age is already a Dally M Medallist, a Brad Fittler Medal recipient, has represented his state/country a combined twelve times, is arguably the fastest man in all of world Rugby League. However, while the benefits of being a Rugby League superstar in Australia essentially mean you are treated like a celebrity when that A+++ Person or ‘Tommy Turbo’ in this case stuffs up, the critics are speedy to come out of the woodwork and sink their teeth in. And as a diehard Manly Warringah Sea Eagles member, it’s disheartening to both describe/witness it, but he has been extremely sluggish to start this season.

However, Tom isn’t the only one to blame for Manly’s dismal 0-2 start this campaign, as Des Hasler must shoulder some of the responsibility too, being the club’s head honcho. Meanwhile, a host of other lads haven’t quite lived up to the task yet either; among those included are 29X capped Sea Eagle Jason Saab, who was constantly targeted by the Roosters last round. He wound up with zero tries, zero try assists, zero offloads, and zero line-break assists whilst also dropping the singular bomb kick thrown against him.

‘Tommy Turbo’ is failing to fire!

Trbojevic is the starting issue for the Northern Beaches-based sides woes, even though his form not being overly terrible, as at one of the highest salaries in the NRL at roughly one million dollars a season, he has to be contributing more. Up in Penrith during Round One, he had just four kick returns, with the Panthers opting to kick the ball to his teammates a lot more instead. That number only slightly increased a week later at the SCG against Sydney, with him getting seven. Against Sydney, he was also weak, defusing just 1/10 bomb kicks. Despite how brilliant he usually is, stuff like dropped or undealt with kicks can be a massive confidence rattler. And with all of the awful stuff plus errors seemingly seeking into his game, it’s hugely tasking for him to get any real momentum going.

Both Manly’s Round One & Two (Panthers and Roosters) opponents seemed to do an excellent job of mitigating the impact he could have offensively by shutting down on him quickly. Tom created twenty-eight try assists last season, but so far this campaign, he only has one, and that tells you all you need to know. If he can’t do much when there is ‘some’ space available in front of him, i.e., running the ball out from your end, then how is he supposed to do it from a dummy-half run or when the balls have been passed to him, and there’s only about 5ms between him and an opposition tackle? The Sea Eagles started 0-4 without Tom last season, yet with him in tow culminated a regular-season win-loss record of 16-4. It’s incredibly apparent that they need him confident and firing to be any chance of contesting for a Premiership this year!

‘Dessie’s’ love affair with those in the NO.1 position!

Switching it up from player to coach now, while it’s difficult to criticise ‘Dessie,’ especially given what he’s achieved with Manly (40-0 2008 GF anyone?), he is overly reliant on star Fullbacks. ‘The Prince of Brookvale’ ala Brett Stewart was the go-to guy in the Sea Eagles’ constant finals appearances during Hasler’s early seasons with the club. He scored tries for fun (163 for the club, in fact). Then when Des was in charge of Canterbury, Ben Barba’s mesmerising 2012 Dally M campaign super-charged the Bulldogs run to the Grand Final. And now, well, as mentioned above, Manly seemingly can’t concentrate very well without their star Fullback flexing his powers on the rest of the competition. It’s not a criticism of Des that he’s been blessed with such phenomenal attackers throughout his coaching career. Still, it is indeed a complaint that he needs to be less reliant on them, or at the very least teach his teams how to function better when they’re either A: Injured or B: Not playing particularly well.

Last season, Saab scored twenty-six tries in total, while Reuben Garrick only just trailed behind him with twenty-three four-pointers. Captain Daly Cherry-Evans also set up twenty-seven tries for his teammates, while Kieran Foran played a helping hand with eleven try assists. There is so much star power within the 8X Premiership winners whose last names don’t start with the letter T. Hasler should be able to competently and quickly get them on form, even if their star Fullback is playing a bit woefully. If not, what’s the point of going out there and playing each week? Because the fans deserve a hell of a lot better than what we are seeing on display right now.

Questions also have to be asked of Hasler, such as why the likes of Lachlan Croker and Toafofoa Sipley have each started or been named to start two consecutive games in a row to start the new campaign off with. Croker ran for just 10ms against Penrith + committed an error. Then against Sydney, his stats included a penalty conceded and a mistake. Meanwhile, Sipley’s form has been bad. Against the Panthers, the heavy Prop made one error and locked in just ten runs (although, in fairness, they were decent ones) as Manly struggled with their go-forward game. Then versus the Roosters, he was named in their initial twenty-man squad, rewarding poor form over those who perhaps deserved it more. At the end of the day, Hasler is the one making these line-up decisions, and why? Why? Why? Shuffle the line-up a bit so that Dylan Walker can be accommodated at the expense of Jason Saab or Brad Parker. Or maybe give Taniela Paseka a decent run!

Sad, sad, Sad-aab!

For Saab, similar to Trbojevic’s start to the season, it’s bewilderingly frustrating given how well the former St. George Dragon performed in the campaign prior. However, he was at fault for several Roosters tries last Friday night, as they actively identified his weaknesses and targeted/exploited him throughout their matchup. He was forced into making six tackles against the ‘Chooks,’ whereas throughout the entirety of last season, he made only thirteen in total. He registered nearly half of that in just one game! While he was also unable to defuse the one bomb kick that came his way. Saab, again similarly to ‘Tommy’ needs some confidence on his side, and a simple try or two or maybe some strong try-line defence might fix that. But until that happens, he may continue to perform very, very shakily.

A link to his/their dismal display against the Roosters can be viewed right here! –

Manly has many issues they need to fix before they become a Top Four threat again. And while I’ll support this team until the very last second I’m lowered into the grave, the form on display at the moment is unacceptable given the impeccably high (and rightfully so) standards that the club sets for their players, coaches and the like. This is Manly, so I know they’ll fix it, but it is somewhat concerning that the same worrying trends that marred them early last season seem to pop up early again and at a remarkably high frequency.

Toby is somebody who is a knowledgeable and passionate sports fan, but none more than the NRL. From a young age, he has been covering and supporting Australia’s greatest code. He has diplomas in both sports and business, while he loves a good laugh, some good food and travelling.

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