Manly keep open mind on Trbojevic’s centre shift

Scott Bailey |

Manly will take a week-by-week approach with Tom Trbojevic’s move to centre as the Sea Eagles superstar prepares to return from his latest hamstring injury.

Trbojevic will play centre at club level for the first time in eight years on Saturday night, as Manly ease him back into the NRL in their crucial bottom-of-the-eight clash against North Queensland.

Coach Anthony Seibold indicated on Friday there was no guarantee on when Trbojevic would return to fullback, or if the centre move would be long term.

“This is for this weekend. It’s about getting him back on the field,” Seibold said.

“We want to try and keep Turbo on the field and in the game … We feel like that’s the right thing to do.

“We’re just worried about tomorrow night’s game, we’ll worry about what happens after that afterwards.

“It was a pretty easy decision. He has played State of Origin as a centre. He will do it really well.”

Manly’s decision to shift the 2021 Dally M Medallist came after extensive research into the GPS data of centres and fullbacks at both the Sea Eagles and in Origin.

The data showed there were similar kilometres covered per game, but there was a greater requirement for intense acceleration in the fullback role.

That helped push Manly towards playing Trbojevic at centre, where he won the Wally Lewis Medal for man of the Origin series in 2021.

“When we looked at the data objectively that (acceleration) was the main thing,” Seibold said. 

“But it was a bit of a gut feel. As a coach you have a bit of a gut feel. A number of conversations with Turbo too.” 

Manly will keep the Cowboys guessing on which side Trbojevic plays.

The 27-year-old has played right centre when starring for NSW and would present a serious threat alongside Daly Cherry-Evans and Haumole Olakau’atu there for Manly.

But the gap in the Sea Eagles’ backline is on the left with Tolu Koula moving from centre on that side to fullback in place of Trbojevic.

It is expected Trbojevic will be given the right to roam in attack anywhere on the field.

“I would rather play without numbers,” Seibold said. 

“Why do you have to look at traditional numbers (and say) he has to play left centre, right centre or fullback? 

“The main thing is we’ve got Turbo back out on the field. For the young people who follow our game, it’s a good thing for the NRL and rugby league in general.”

Seibold also said he would not stand in the way of NSW picking Trbojevic for State of Origin III, if an opening arose through injury or suspension this weekend.

“Of course he is (available). I’ve never stopped a player from playing representative football,” Seibold said. 

“My thing would be if they are going to take him into camp, play him in the 17, not at 18. Because he’s missed so much football.”