Steve Matai acting as a mentor for Tom Trbojevic’s move to centre
TOM Trbojevic, a month ago, had played two, maybe three games at centre.
- 37 minutes ago
- by NICK WALSHAW
- Source: The Daily Telegraph
And all of them for Mona Vale juniors.
“So when told I’d be switching there, I was worried,’’ the Manly young gun says. “I knew it was going to be a challenge.”
Enter Steve Matai.
With the Sea Eagles currently resembling a MASH unit, it has been left to the injured Matai — sidelined for the year with a neck injury — to give 19-year-old Trbojevic a crash course in NRL centre play.
Indeed, so hands on has the former international become, he now stands behind the Manly backline during training drills so that, afterwards, he can better school Trbojevic on potential improvements.
And the results have been immediate.
Touted as a future Sea Eagles No. 1, the northern beaches teen has been so strong since shifting from the wing in the past three weeks several critics have suggested he be catapulted onto the flanks of the NSW Origin side.
Trbojevic has been in fine form since switching to centre.Source: News Corp Australia
And for that, he credits Matai.
“Skivvie has been really helpful,’’ Trbojevic concurs. “He gets in behind me at training, stands behind me when we do edge stuff.
“I’ll defend a set and then he comes and talks with me afterwards. Telling me what I did well, what I can improve on, that sort of thing.
“It’s been great.
“Prior to coming into first grade, I’d played fullback my entire life. There were a couple of games at centre in juniors, but that’s it.
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“So to have a great centre like Skivvie there, it’s been really helpful.”
Having already been forced to learn wing play, Trbojevic admits the difficulties of this latest move are greater again.
Worse, he is trying to learn in a side that, apart from being riddled with injury and marred by off-field controversy, has also dropped five games straight.
“The biggest challenge is defensively,’’ he says. “You have to make more decisions.
“I was worried at the start but having great players here to help me out — Jamie Lyon has been really helpful, too — it’s made the switch a lot easier.
“I’m really enjoying the challenge.”
Some have spoken about Trbojevic as an Origin bolter.Source: News Corp Australia
While Trbojevic will partner Lyon in the centres against Gold Coast in Monday Night Football, he remains unsure if the spot is now his for the season.
“I haven’t really spoke to Baz about it that much,’’ he continued. “But now with Skivvie gone for the year, I will probably have to fill a role at centre and I’m happy to do that.”
Despite his strong showings for Manly in recent weeks, Trbojevic still refused to say he was happy with his individual form.
“Happy wouldn’t be the right word, no,’’ he adds. “Having people talk about you and Origin selection, it’s surreal.
“But it’s hard to be happy with the way you’re playing if the side has lost five games in a row.
“I’m playing all right but I’m not happy. We have to turn our form around.”