Tedesco, Trbojevic in No.1 No.1 duel

Scott Bailey |

Ask Trent Robinson who the NRL’s best No.1 is, and the answer is simple: James Tedesco.

Ten minutes west in Redfern, Jason Demetriou is adamant there is only one man he’d want playing at the back in his team.

And it comes in the form of Latrell Mitchell.

Down in Melbourne, Craig Bellamy was expansive then apologetic when asked last April on his opinion, labelling Tedesco the best of recent years.

“But what I would say is Paps is getting closer to him,” Bellamy said at the time.

Given what Ryan Papenhuyzen has produced when on the field in the past 12 months, it’s likely Bellamy would consider that gap now closed.

And no doubt, if Des Hasler was to answer the question honestly, he’d have Tom Trbojevic.

“It’s probably one of the positions we get a lot of variation in our game, there are a lot of different fullbacks,” Roosters coach Robinson said.

“They are different in the way they play the game.”

Realistically, there is no clear cut No.1 at No.1.

But this weekend offers the best insight into the battle.

On Thursday night, Mitchell and Papenhuyzen and Mitchell’s field-goal shootout defined Melbourne’s 15-14 win over South Sydney.

Mitchell, in his first game back from his ban, set up two tries and kicked a two-point drop goal to send the match into golden point.

Papenhuyzen’s influence was less obvious, but his running one-pointer in golden point proved the most decisive.

Come Friday night, it’s time for the Tedesco and Trbojevic showdown as the Roosters host Manly.

Tedesco has long been considered the game’s best player since Billy Slater’s retirement, before Trbojevic’s all-conquering 2021 was among the best individual seasons of all-time.

“They have advanced our game again on the back of Billy Slater,” Robinson said.

“It’s great to see amazing fullbacks who have different styles. They’re not rope-learning one off the other.

“Teddy has that short wheelbase, the turn 360-degrees and change of angle.

“Tom has got a beautiful turn of speed, he’s slight and with long legs glides across the line.”

Both Trbojevic and Tedesco had relatively quiet starts to the season, as their teams were well contained in opening-round losses.

At the Roosters, it’s been a case of getting the attack to gel, with the likes of Sam Walker and Luke Keary playing together for the first time.

At Manly, it’s all about territory and good ball, after Penrith kicked them into submission in the corners last week and they struggled to work their way out.

Still though, the Roosters know the key to Operation Stop Tom won’t be so simple for two weeks straight.

“We know what he is doing and how important he is to their game,” Robinson said. 

“But we wouldn’t be coaching if we didn’t have a plan to nullify that. 

“Playing out of the back field is obviously the best place to get those players. It’s a great spot. 

“But you also have to be great in midfield, and their set plays they line up for Tommy as well. 

“So we know our plan. It’s up to us to execute it.”