Sport The off-season mistake that was a wake-up call to Dally M winner Tom Trbojevic
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The off-season mistake that was a wake-up call to Dally M winner Tom Trbojevic

Tom Trbojevic with the prized Dally M medal at NRL's night of nights in Brisbane. Photo: Getty
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Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic believes an off-season footrace with a fan, that injured his hamstring, provided the career wake-up call which led to his stellar 2021 NRL form.

Trbojevic’s magnificent season for Manly was rewarded on Monday when the Sea Eagles superstar won his maiden Dally M medal.

Because of that infamous footrace with “Harry” down the Manly corso, 24-year-old Trbojevic only played 15 of a possible 24 games this year.

Yet he still polled 35 points to win ahead of ahead of Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary (30) and South Sydney’s Cody Walker (29).

Trbojevic said the fallout from that off-season lair made him realise he had to alter his lifestyle and get serious about his football.

“It’s a bigger part than people realise,” Trbojevic said when asked about that moment in February.

“Obviously it wasn’t an ideal way for it to start for me and it wasn’t a great look for myself and for Manly.

“I had to cop that and change a few things in my life to make me a better footy player. I think I was able to do that which was pleasing.

“It just made me realise I’m a footy player and I wanted to play footy and I hadn’t been doing that enough.

“Obviously hurt myself and it’s just a bad look on myself. It just made me really focus on what was important.”

Tom Trbojevic and partner Kristi Wilkinson.
Rabbitoh Damien Cook and Courtney Cook.
Ali Brigginshaw of the Brisbane Broncos NRLW team and her wife Kate Daly.
Rabbitoh Alex Johnston and Taryn Carson.
Cody Walker, of the Rabbitohs, and Nellie Bell.
Rooster Sam Walker and partner Bella Allan.
Panther James Fisher-Harris and partner Natalie Apikotoa with their 6-week-old baby.
Panther Viliame Kikau and his partner Brittany Carey.
Brian To'o, of the Panthers, and partner Moesha Fui fui.
Millie Boyle of the Brisbane Broncos women's team.
Amy Wood, partner of Bradman Best from the Knights.
Miranda Cross, partner of Cameron Murray of the Rabbitohs.
Kelsey Browne, partner of Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm.

Trbojevic’s triumph is the third time a Manly player has won the gong after Cliff Lyons (1990, 94) and Matt Orford (2008).

It’s also the least number of games in a campaign of any Dally M or Rothmans Medal winner in the past 50 years, eclipsing Steve Morris’s 16 of a possible 22 in his rookie 1979 campaign with St George.

Trbojevic went into Monday’s awards one vote behind Cleary on counting revealed up to the final six rounds.

A barnstorming finish to the season, featuring 11 tries including three hat-tricks from the Sea Eagles’ last five games was easily enough for Trbojevic to overhaul the Panthers’ half, who finishes runner-up for the second straight year.

Johnathan Thurston’s record tally of 36 points came from 22 games in 2007.

In other awards, Melbourne’s Craig Bellamy won coach of the year with Sydney Roosters captain James Tedesco named captain of the year
Tedesco’s teenaged Roosters teammate Sam Walker won the rookie of the year prize.

Dally M 2021 winners list

  • Dally M Player of the Year – Tom Trbojevic (Manly)

TEAM OF THE YEAR

  • Props – Payne Haas (Brisbane), James Fisher-Harris (Penrith)
  • Second Row – Viliame Kikau (Penrith), Isaiah Papali’i (Parramatta)
  • Lock – Isaah Yeo (Penrith)
  • Wingers – Brian To’o (Penrith), Reuben Garrick (Manly)
  • Centres – Matt Burton (Penrith), Justin Olam (Melbourne)
  • Five-eighth – Cody Walker (South Sydney)
  • Halfback – Nathan Cleary (Penrith)
  • Hooker – Brandon Smith (Melbourne)
  • Fullback – Tom Trbojevic (Manly)
  • Rookie of the Year – Sam Walker (Sydney Roosters)
  • Captain of the Year – James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)
  • Coach of the Year – Craig Bellamy (Melbourne)

-AAP