Tom Trbojevic cops Origin reality check in Manly win as legend slams 'rubbish' NRL drama

Turbo's Origin audition for the Blues didn't exactly go to plan.

Manly superstar Tom Trbojevic says he will put his hand up to replace Latrell Mitchell for the Blues in the State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium, despite an underwhelming return in his side's golden point win over North Queensland on Saturday night. The Sea Eagles edged the Cowboys 21-20 in a golden point thriller in Townsville, with Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans kicking a record-extending seventh winning field goal in extra time to lift his side into the top eight.

Both sides had multiple chances to win the match in regular time and extra time, with Chad Townsend missing three field goal attempts before full-time after Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater's two-point field goal levelled the scores late on. Cherry-Evans also missed a straightforward chance before full-time, with Valentine Holmes squandering another two in extra time before the Manly skipper snatched another dramatic victory that lifts his side into seventh on the ladder.

Pictured left to right are Manly stars Tom Trbojevic and Jason Saab.
Tom Trbojevic was quiet in his NRL return for Manly in an underwhelming Origin audition as Jason Saab was at the centre of a contentious call against the Cowboys. Pic: Getty/Fox League

The match was littered with errors on a greasy surface in Townsville, where both teams bombed a number of tries. But league great Greg Alexander was left fuming after Manly were denied a try when hat-trick hero Jason Saab was judged to have tackled Murray Taulagi in the air, despite both competing to win the footy off a towering Manly bomb. Taulagi spilled the kick and Reuben Garrick scooped it up and dived over the tryline, only to be denied by the bunker.

"That's rubbish, he does not, that is complete rubbish, he does not tackle him, he makes contact with him... if you're going for the ball how can you not collide with the player?," Alexander fumed on Fox League. The scores were locked at 18-all at the time, and fans were divided over the bunker call after many insisted Saab grabbed at Taulagi's hands before he spilled the ball. An identical incident happened moments later involving Manly's Tommy Talau but the Sea Eagles were not awarded a penalty on that occasion.

The incident didn't ultimately prove costly for Manly thanks to the latest golden point heroics from their captain. And the victory threw up more questions around their star fullback Turbo, playing at centre in his first game in eight weeks since suffering a hamstring injury against the Dolphins in round 10. It was far from an emphatic Origin statement from the Manly superstar, who was found out several times in defence, looked short of match fitness and had little impact on the contest.

Seen here, Manly centre Tom Trbojevic.
Manly centre Tom Trbojevic had limited impact against the Cowboys in his first game in the NRL for two months. Pic: Getty

The 27-year-old ran for just 70 run metres off 13 runs, after being made to make 23 tackles in defence as the Cowboys tried to test out the Manly superstar. Trbojevic started the game playing a roaming role in attack as shifted from left centre to the right side of the field but by the end of the match he looked out on his feet. It's not surprising considering Turbo has been out for two months but the Origin arena is much more punishing than an NRL game.


Even still, Trbojevic admitted he would still put his hand up for NSW if Blues coach Michael Maguire came calling, despite admitting he hadn't given the idea much thought. “It is awesome to be back playing footy. If he does call me I’ll put my hand up," Trbojevic said. “It was nice to get back out there. "It was a bit different (playing centre). It’s good to have a different challenge. I’m excited by the new challenge. I will only get better from here.”

Matt Burton is another option for Maguire at centre for the Blues and the Bulldogs star showed his mettle in another match-winning contribution against the Warriors. Burton kicked the golden point-winning field goal for the second week in a row as the Bulldogs toppled the Warriors earlier on Saturday in one of the games of the season. "I'd be more than open to putting my hand up for NSW if they needed me. I'm ready," he declared after the match.

Joseph Suaalii is another candidate to replace Mitchell at centre for the Blues after playing just seven minutes in Game 1 before being sent off for a high tackle on Reece Walsh. But Newcastle star Bradman Best is probably in the best form out of Maguire's centre candidates and gets another chance to press his claims in Sunday's game against Canberra, having scored a double for NSW on debut last year in the Origin Game 3 dead rubber.

with AAP