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Tom Trbojevic ready to ‘own the ground’ for Manly as he returns from reconditioning trip

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In recent years, there has been a few select clips of Tom Trbojevic that have come to define him. 

There’s the momentum shifting hit-up halfway through a set right into the jaws of an opposition pack that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck also made his bread and butter not too long ago.

There is the burst of acceleration that precedes a defensive line being stripped of numbers, where he either crashes over the stripe himself or he conjures some sleight of hand to send his winger racing away into the corner for yet another Manly try.

Then there is the sickening feeling in lounge rooms and pubs around the country when a grimace stretches across Trbojevic’s face as he contemplates another spell on the sidelines.

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Thankfully, this time when he pulled up during pre-season training, it mostly occurred away from the prying lenses of TV cameras.

Scans soon confirmed he had sustained a grade two hamstring strain and with that the Trbojevic cycle slipped into an all-too-familiar loop of brilliance quickly followed by an injury setback.

However, instead of hoping how this time things would finally be different, Manly and Trbojevic took the proactive approach by bundling the talisman onto a long-haul flight to seek a new opinion.  

The injury was enough to provoke a chain reaction which eventually culminated in Trbojevic rocking up at the doorstep of renowned reconditioning specialist Bill Knowles.

“Going over there was nothing to do with a timeline, it was all about doing the best thing for myself to prevent injury,” the 26-year-old said after returning from his two-week trip.

“He’s not going to tell me when I can and can’t play. It’s more to do with me becoming a better athlete to be more sustainable in the long term.”

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Manly’s results with and without Trbojevic have been regurgitated so often that the numbers could almost be recited off the top of the head. 

Since 2019, the Sea Eagles have won 68 percent of the games where he has started at fullback, while this drops to a 34 percent winning percentage when he has been absent.  

Trbojevic has legitimate claims at being the most significant factor in a side’s success or demise within the entirety of the competition. Without him, Manly simply crumble.

“[Knowles’] big thing is being strong through the ground and owning the ground and that’s about being strong in contact and in positions where you find yourself in a game,” Trbojevic explained about his rehabilitation work.   

“A lot of his drills are around that in the gym and then out on the field where you can replicate it.

“It’s a bit more technical and often goes above my head sometimes, but I think that’s the best way to put it.”

It’s things like rapid changes of direction, that have often proved to be Trbojevic’s downfall in the past, which Knowles targeted during their time together.

The American sought to re-educate and then rewire these movements during his 20 sessions, with the initial discussions focusing on where the fullback was faltering the most.  

“It worked out the first few days were an assessment for him, and he looks at you and understands where you’re at as an athlete,” Trbojevic said.

“From there, he’s able to develop plans on how you can improve your athletic performance.  

“Mentally, it provides you with that direction with where you need to go but it’s not an overnight fix.

“You need to stick with the processes…having that helps my mind and physically it provides me with confidence.”

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Yet while Trbojevic acknowledged his pilgrimage to Philadelphia wouldn’t act as a guaranteed remedy, it did provide him with the blueprint on how to possibly prevent future mishaps. 

One of his main objectives entering into the new season will be around an improved approach to gameday.

“Preparation is really key,” he stated.

“How you structure a week and areas around training where I need to improve and do better. It’s a process with a lot of things to work on, and I look forward to doing that.

“Injuries come because there’s a chink in the armour and everything’s not working together, so it’s about improving the athletic performance and getting everything working as a symphony.”

The Sea Eagles certainly weren’t singing from the same hymn sheet towards the backend of last year when their miserable seven-game losing streak brought Des Hasler’s second spell in charge to an abrupt end.

The rainbow jersey saga dominated the headlines so much it often flew under the radar how poorly Manly performed when their season was on the line.

There were mitigating factors like an eye-watering injury list to contend with, but in the end the club felt a refresh was necessary.  

And this is what Trbojevic’s trip has also provided; it has given a player who has featured in 44 games across the last four seasons a renewed sense of hope about his long-term standing in the game.

“Every time you come back from an injury, you feel good,” he said. “But I think this time it’s given me a lot of confidence and having something to work on is a bit different.

“[Knowles] provides exercises and drills that you can program into your training, and we need to work out how we integrate that into my training.

“We had a physio over there who filmed every session and was writing a lot of notes, so that’s not only bringing it back and helping me but also a full squad approach.”

Anthony Seibold confirmed how different methods of training would be implemented across the board to get the best out of his young squad.

“There will be an ongoing relationship [with Knowles],” the new coach revealed.  

“It’s about trying to cater to Tom and others in our group as individual athletes. That’s the big learning from this.”

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Seibold also went into bat for his star player after Peter Peters had raised the prospect of releasing Trbojevic from his lucrative contract if his injuries persisted.

“I think it’s a business decision. He may have to take an early retirement if it keeps going,” the former Manly premiership winner said while appearing on the Big Sports Breakfast.

“He’s a superstar but it’s like having a Lamborghini full of petrol in the garage, but you can’t drive it because, mechanically, it’s not sound. It’s a huge make-or-break for Turbo’s career in the NRL.”

However, Seibold dismissed these claims that the club could potentially cut ties with Trbojevic, labelling it as not “an educated comment” to have made.

“It came from a former player of our club, and it was disappointing to hear that in the public domain,” Seibold said.


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