Bright finish to tough year for Trbojevic
He's one of the brightest young talents in the game at the end of a breakout season that has seen him captain his club, enjoy his maiden Origin training camp and will soon see him make his Prime Minster's XIII debut.
But competitive Manly lock Jake Trbojevic is a hard marker, and says a season where his club side missed the finals is a tough season that needs to be bounced back from and improved upon.
Still, his pride at having had the chance to skipper his club and his enthusiasm to don the green and gold at a senior level for the first time remain undimmed.
The recently-graduated Sport and Exercise Management student was also recently named in the NRL-RLPA Academic Team of the Year.
Speaking to NRL.com at the naming of the academic team, Trbojevic praised the assistance provided by both the NRL and RLPA (as well as Manly) in helping players to balance their on-field exploits with off-field development.
Trbojevic commenced his studies in his first year out of high school and was able to knock over two years of the UTS program full-time while he was an NYC player and another big chunk in his injury-ruined 2014 season, which he philosophically regards as a silver lining after doing an internship at his club.
"Yeah that year was actually really good because I had to do an internship; I didn't really know when I was going to do it but when I broke my leg it worked out well," Trbojevic said.
"I got to do it with [then-Manly media manager] Tim Ashworth who works at the NRL now but he was at Manly at the time so I jumped in the media team with him and [then-Manly digital manager] Johnny Chammas. That was great fun, we had a great time for six months or so there."
While any concrete decisions around putting his degree into practice are on hold as football takes over, Trbojevic hasn't ruled out further studies during his playing career.
"Because there's so much help at Manly and at the NRL about maybe doing something else at uni, talking to [Manly education and welfare manager] Luke Williamson and [careers coach] Amber [Hope] at Manly who are our welfare officers, thinking about doing something else but maybe next year," he added.
Trbojevic is relishing the chance to add a PM's XIII training camp to his experience earlier in 2016 training with the Blues as part of the extended squad ahead of their victorious Game Three.
"It's going to be a cool week to be a part of [in Papua New Guinea]. The experience of being around in the camp is going to be cool so I'm looking forward to it," he said.
"Doing the Blues camp this year was something I really enjoyed and getting to do it with my brother [Tom]. It was the game they won so it made the experience even better.
"The experience of that camp, training alongside those players and the coaching staff was awesome so I'm looking forward to this camp and seeing how it goes."
Jake didn't want to dwell on whether his younger brother Tom could have also made his green and gold debut in the PM's XIII game if not for post-season ankle surgery.
"He's already had the operation so he's at home on crutches, he's struggling a bit, it's a bit sore but hopefully it will fix his ankle for next year," Trbojevic said.
"He's had a good season and he's only young, injuries are part and parcel of the game, he's played well all year so he needs to get it fixed up for next year so it's obviously disappointing but that's the way it goes."
The post-mortems on Manly's 13th-place finish have already happened and the chance to get back into pre-season in November is already on Trbojevic's mind.
"We had our reviews and that sort of thing, went over it and how we can improve for next year," he said.
"It was obviously disappointing the way the year went, we had a lot of expectation and it sort of didn't go to plan.
"There was a few things that went wrong with injuries and all that sort of thing. We're looking forward to next year, we go back in November for 2017. We've got a lot to work on but that's exciting, hopefully we can come back bigger and better."
Coach Trent Barrett and the senior players repeatedly avoided leaning on the side's horror injury toll as an excuse but the team was forced to contend with long-term injuries to senior players in key positions – with Brett Stewart, Steve Matai, Dylan Walker, Brenton Lawrence and at times Daly Cherry-Evans and Jamie Lyon among the casualties.
"When you're changing key positions and missing key players who have a lot of experience, it's tough," Trbojevic said.
"But that's out of your control, every club gets injuries so hopefully next year we can sort of stay injury free but fingers crossed we keep our best 1-17 out on the park for the majority of the year."