The score is rarely the most important aspect of a trial and Jake Trbojevic placed more significance on Manly Warringah Sea Eagles’ developing back-row line-up than the score on Saturday night.
The representative lock and second-rower Curtis Sironen were joined by former St George Illawarra Dragons forward Joel Thompson for the first time in the 28-26 loss to the Sydney Roosters at Central Coast Stadium.
Manly may have found their final ingredient in Thompson for an unstoppable back row, and as Trbojevic explained, he felt the trio worked well together.
“They are two really good quality back-rowers. Thommo is really experienced, he’s been around for a long time. Siro’s at that age where he’s really starting to play his best footy. I think last year was his best season and the way he’s trained this off-season I reckon he’s going to go to another level,” he said.
“It’s really good when you have quality back-rowers like that who love carrying the footy and hopefully they can just keep improving.”
Thompson’s first appearance as a Sea Eagle was an impressive one, and Trbojevic said if he translated Saturday night’s form into the regular season, it would be a massive bonus for their Telstra Premiership campaign.
“He was good. He’s really tough, he’s such a good competitor so he’s really fit in well. He’s trained hard and it was good to see him play really well tonight, I know he’ll have a great year,” he said.
Trbojevic was treated by the medicos and left the field in the 52nd minute after a head clash. He said the small cut at the top of his right eye was nothing to worry about.
“Just a few stitches, nothing too bad,” he said.
“I was happy to get through the first half and play a bit of the second half. I don’t think I was going to play 80 but it was just good to play some minutes and get a bit of match fitness.”
Manly wasted no time in putting points on the board with three tries in the first 10 minutes.
Trbojevic said Manly’s defence in the second half was the telling factor in their defeat and they would have to go back to the drawing board before they take on the Newcastle Knights in round one.
“We played alright tonight. I guess our defence can improve a bit, we let a few tries in on the last tackle which was a little bit disappointing,” he said.
“There is a lot of good stuff which is exciting but a lot we can work on and we’ve got a couple of weeks to do that. We will work really hard and hopefully go up there and put in a good performance.”
Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett said his forwards would be encouraged to showcase their attacking skills but the focus will be one defence going into the season.
“He’s got good ball skills, Jakey. He’s probably under-rated in that area, we all know he’s good defensively,” he said.
“He can certainly do it. A lot of our middles can pass the ball and our attack will evolve over the course of the season. It’s a slippery ball at the start of the year, the teams that win are the teams that are best defensively and control the footy.”