The Manly Sea Eagles have been sitting in the doldrums all season so far with just one win from the first five games.
But in just 40 minutes of football, Tom Trbojevic has appeared to turn the season around with the Sea Eagles looking like a completely different team in the 36-0 annihilation of the Titans.
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Trbojevic has been the big absence all season after a series of injuries saw the 24-year-old miss a bunch of time on the field.
Trbojevic only played seven games last season with his troublesome hamstring followed by a shoulder injury keeping him off the field.
He appeared to hurt his hamstring again earlier in the year, slipping in the bathroom, despite footage of him racing a punter on the Manly corso.
The punter later said that he saw no signs of Trbojevic being injured when they raced but it became a major story before the season began.
When the season started, the story became how hapless the Sea Eagles looked, getting pummelled in the opening game of the season against the Roosters and the next three rounds before a last-second field goal gave them a win over the Warriors in round 5.
It was believed even Trbojevic couldn’t fix the issues with Manly — apparently, they were wrong.
Against the heavily favoured Titans, the second last ranked Sea Eagles blew the Gold Coast away with a 26-0 lead at the halftime break.
At halftime, Fox Sports had Trbojevic’s stats at 166m with a try, two try assists, eight tackle breaks and 166m.
“It has been an incredible first five rounds of the season where all the talk around the Sea Eagles has been around can one player make such a difference?” Michael Ennis said of Trbojevic.
“Well the first half just explains it all. He was absolutely stunning. That first half from Tom Trbojevic was brilliant. He was exceptional.
“He split the Gold Coast Titans through the middle. He hit them out wide. He absolutely ripped Patrick Herbert apart on that left-hand-side. That was as good as it gets.”
He finished with 202m and nine tackle busts.
The Fox League commentators, who had run out of superlatives for Trbojevic in maroon, had already had him lining up in NSW blue.
“You’d think a lot of players would just ease themselves back in after a long term injury,” Steve Roach said. “He’s done the hammy three or four times now. Nice little headache for Freddy Fittler as well.”
“He can do no more on return from another hamstring strain today,” Warren Smith said.
“If you reckon Des Hasler’s smiling and the Manly fans here in Mudgee are smiling, then what about the NSW Origin brains trust. They’ll be doing handstands at the moment, albeit while still holding their breath.”
But while the NRL was happy to see a box office star like Trbojevic back on the field, some on social media pointed out the bad look of the impact of just the one player.
AAP’s Scott Bailey said the difference in the Sea Eagles was massive.
“It would fair dinkum be worth Manly paying tens of millions to somehow guarantee fit hamstrings for Tom Trbojevic. They are the difference between the Sea Eagles being a top-four and bottom-four team,” he tweeted.
On the other side of things, the Titans were awful in the capitulation.
Trbojevic said after the game, that “the body was good”.
“We’ve got a really good team here and they’ve been working really hard over the past eight weeks,” he said. “It’s just good to be back playing footy, I’ve missed it a lot so you enjoy these moments.”