Captaincy shock for Trbojevic
Young Manly prop Jake Trbojevic admits to some initial shock when he first learned he'd be making his senior captaincy debut at this weekend's Downer NRL Auckland Nines but is now just excited to get out there and see how he handles it.
Last season the highly-rated 21-year-old went from fringe first grader to starting prop and a core part of Manly's squad going forward as he produced a series of memorable displays particularly in defence where his old-school legs tackles stopped ball runners of all shapes and sizes in their tracks.
It's no major surprise to see the local junior given a leadership role given his efforts on and off the field for the Sea Eagles but to be given a formal captaincy duty this early in his career shows how well he is thought of on the northern beaches.
"I was a bit shocked at first but it's pretty cool but I'm really looking forward to the experience and seeing what it brings," Trbojevic told NRL.com at a fan day in Auckland's Aotea Square the day before the tournament kicked off.
He credited the players he had around him for his own rapid development last year, which should only accelerate given some of the high-profile forwards recruited by the club for 2016.
"It's been good, it's been really cool to play alongside the calibre of player I did last year which really helped me I think and this year we've got a lot of good players coming to the club so hopefully it'll be a good season. It's exciting times and I'm really excited for the club," he said.
"Getting to play alongside those guys [like Nate Myles and Marty Taupau] is definitely exciting and in terms of learning off them you've got players with international experience beside you each day willing to teach you and willing to help, which is cool."
In terms of the immediate task at hand, Trbojevic is very much a Nines rookie and isn't sure what to expect once the matches kick off.
"I haven't played it before, I've watched it but it's exciting to see what happens. It'll be a bit more open out there.
"There's definitely a role to play [for us forwards] but I'm just looking forward to getting out there and playing with some of the guys after all the pre-season training we've done."
Asked if he was relishing the chance to boss around younger brother and try-scoring ace Tom Trbojevic, Jake laughed: "Bloody oath! I need a few tries from him. He's that sort of player, he's suited to Nines but we still have to work hard out there, there's only four less players and there are going to be strong defensive lines so he'll have to do his best and see what happens."
Across the rest of the squad, Trbojevic said he was looking forward to seeing how a couple of the club's under-20s players would handle the weekend.
"A young player like Jesse Ramien from the under-20s – he's only 18 and got a few more years of 20s but he's a really good player. Other players like Fabian Goodall and Wof Lavaka, they're really good players who've been training hard all pre-season and they're going to have a good tournament.
"Everyone was excited to come over here, it gets you away from the pre season training, you get to play a bit of footy which is what we're here to do. I've heard it's great fun so we're really looking forward to it."