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Infamous footrace with fan the catalyst for Tom Trbojevic’s Dally M Medal

Infamous footrace with fan the catalyst for Tom Trbojevic’s Dally M Medal

  • Manly star polls 35 points despite playing only 15 games
  • Self-inflicted pre-season injury made ‘me a better footy player’

Australian Associated Press
Mon 27 Sep 2021 18.14 EDT

Tom Trbojevic believes the 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 incident 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.”

Trbojevic’s triumph makes him the third Manly player to win the gong after Cliff Lyons (1990, 94) and Matt Orford (2008).

It is 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.

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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 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)

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