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For & Against: Tom Trbojevic will be Manly's best ever fullback

Tom Trbojevic's stocks are rising by the week as he leads Manly back into finals contention but where does he rank alongside the club's best-ever fullbacks?

The Sea Eagles have been blessed with a host of fine custodians dating back to Bob Batty in the 60s and early 70s, Hall of Famer Graham "Wombat" Eadie, Kiwi point-scoring machine Matthew Ridge and the Prince of Brookvale, Brett Stewart.

On current form Tom Turbo may zoom past them all but there's plenty of water to pass under the Narrabeen Bridge before that comes to pass.

Each of Manly's eight premiership sides have been driven from the back by a gun No.1 and Trbojevic will be looking to one day join that exclusive group.

Tom Trbojevic will be Manly's best-ever fullback

For - Paul Suttor ( editor in chief)

There are only two things preventing Tom Trbojevic from becoming Manly’s No.1 player to have worn the No.1 jersey and they’re the muscles at the upper rear of his legs that defenders are getting used to see run off into the distance. 

The Sea Eagles have a proud history of superb fullbacks from Kangaroos star Graham Eadie in the 1970s, goal-kicking Kiwi Matthew Ridge in the ‘90s and prolific try-scorer Brett Stewart during their last golden era of a decade ago.

Trbojevic has the talent to trump them all, as long as he can stay on the field. 

His purple patch in maroon over the past month since returning from his most recent hammy holiday has produced numbers that are off the charts. 

No less than 13 try involvements (five tries plus eight assists) is Trbojevic's greatest four-game stretch of his career which hit the 100-game milestone in Sunday’s comeback win over the Warriors.

Every try from Round 9

Trbojevic made his Telstra Premiership debut six years ago and it seems like he’s been a part of the furniture out Brookvale way for longer but he’s still only 24. 

With modern sport science hopefully rectifying his muscular maladies, he’s potentially got another decade of tearing opposition defences apart and giving lazy headline writers the ongoing gift of Turbo-powered puns. 

Despite an armada of top-quality fullbacks in the game, the calibre of Latrell Mitchell, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Kalyn Ponga, Valentine Holmes, Clint Gutherson and AJ Brimson, if James Tedesco was unavailable for Kangaroos duty, Trbojevic should be the next custodian off the rank for the green and gold No.1 jersey. 

He’s better at making teammates better than arguably any player in the competition, including this white-hot crop of ball-players bursting in from the backfield. 

With 53 tries from his first century of appearances in Manly maroon, he is still a long way from chasing down Stewart’s tally of 163.

Turbo busts through for a double

Stewart enjoyed premiership success in 2008 and 2011, Ridge did likewise in 1996 and Eadie, an NRL Hall of Famer, spearheaded four Manly title wins in the ‘70s. 

Trbojevic is yet to go close to grand final glory but has shown at Origin and Test level that he truly belongs in elite company. He’s a big-game player that would propel his team to great heights if Manly can make their way back into the playoffs. 

The way he’s playing lately, they could easily keep rising up the ladder to snare a finals berth. 

When he was absent and Manly started the season 1-4, coach Des Hasler was mindful of not putting too much pressure on Trbojevic to be the Sea Eagles’ saviour.

Get Caught Up: Round 9 must-see moments

Even when his own position was being questioned despite inking a contract extension. 

We heard the Hasler spiel multiple times over a few weeks that Trbojevic was not going to be the saviour, the Sea Eagles couldn’t just rely on him to turn their season around on his own and his return would not guarantee wins. 

They’ve won three of the four games he’s played since. 

He has been their saviour, the Sea Eagles could indeed just rely on him to turn their season around on his own and his return has all but guaranteed wins. 

Trbojevic has done everything for the side apart from drive the team bus and given Manly a realistic chance of a finals run that seemed fanciful just a month ago. 

If his hamstrings can allow him to keep performing such feats over the next decade, he will surely go down as the greatest fullback in club history. 

Against - Martin Lenehan ( senior reporter)

If Tom Turbo continues in his current vein of form he may well zoom past 'Wombat' and the "Prince of Brookvale" to take the mantle as Manly's best-ever fullback but there's plenty of water to pass under the Narrabeen Bridge before that happens.

At 24, Trbojevic is at the peak of his powers, and 100 games into a career that has the potential to be absolutely anything.

Should his body hold together, the gifted No.1 will rack up around 250 NRL games and a truckload of Origins and give strong chase to Brett Stewart's club record of 163 tries.

Those 163 tries came in 233 games, an extraordinary strike rate for a man whose dazzling acceleration and uncanny anticipation made him a hero to the Manly faithful across a 14-year career.

77. Graeme Eadie - Hall of Fame

Affectionately dubbed "The Prince of Brookvale", Stewart was a central figure in Manly's golden decade from 2005-14, in which time they played in four grand finals, won two premierships and never missed the finals.

Ten years in a row in the finals. Just take a moment to soak that in and appreciate what a stunning achievement it was under the coaching of Des Hasler (2004-11) and Geoff Toovey (2012-15).

Stewart's freakish ability to sniff out a try one minute and snuff one out the next with a clasic cover tackle or bomb defusal elevated him to legend status at Manly.

And when it came to defusing bombs, there weren't too many better than Graham "Wombat" Eadie, who patrolled the back for Manly from 1971-83 and savoured four premierships along the journey.

A look back at the 2011 Grand Final

The powerfully built Eadie was just 18 when he helped the club to their maiden premiership as part of a star-studded backline featuring Ken Irvine, Ray Branighan, Dennis Ward and future Immortal Bob Fulton.

Eadie's ability to inject himself into the backline at precisely the right moment made him a constant threat and he almost single handedly tore Cronulla apart in a man of the match display in the 1978 grand final replay.

"Wombat" played in 22 finals matches for Manly, the same number of times he pulled on the green and gold in a Test match.

Manly's other two premiership-winning fullbacks are Dale Shearer in 1987 and Matthew Ridge in 1996 ... pretty fair players in their own right as well.

It's a red-hot field Tom Trbojevic must run down if he's to one day be regarded as Manly's best-ever No.1 and right now my vote goes to the "Princ"' in a photo finish from "Wombat".

Tom Turbo v Graham Eadie v Brett Stewart

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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.

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