In 1983 a 19-year-old from Beacon Hill called Phil Blake wowed the Winfield Cup with a breakout season for the ages.
He’d played fourteen games for the Sea Eagles in 1982, including the grand final against Parramatta Eels. So it was clear that he could play.
But in ’83 he went gangbusters.
In 24 games he scored 27 tries, the most in a season since Newtown’s Ray Preston (34) in 1954.
He scored them from everywhere. He had great pace, a killer step and a chip-and-chase to die for. The old leather Steeden seemed attached to his feet like a Yo-Yo.
He was the runaway leading try-scorer and if it weren’t for Terry Lamb and Peter Sterling winning the Dally M Player of The Year and Halfback of The year respectively, he’d have won those awards too.
Or what Tom Trbojevic called Monday night.
Yes – the great “Turbo” Tom was named Dally M Player of The Year on Monday evening at a glittering awards night at Brisbane’s Howard Smith Wharves following a season so full of superlatives that no-one can recall a better one.
And he did it in less time than anyone’s taken ever, too.
In a hot field Trbojevic polled 35 votes to finish ahead of Nathan Cleary (30 votes), Cody Walker (26), James Tedesco (23) and team-mate Daly Cherry-Evans (23).
It was the second-highest ever number of votes behind Johnathan Thurston’s 36 in 2007.
He played just fifteen regular season games, the least number by a Dally M winner.
In 11 of those matches he polled the maximum three points.
He scored more tries (28) than Phil Blake.
He scored five hat-tricks.
He scored three doubles.
He only failed to score a try in three of his 18 games.
He was flat-out, deadset ridiculous.
On stage in the shadows of Brisbane’s Story Bridge, Trbojevic said: “What an honour it is to win this award”.
“I was just reading the past winners and to be recognised amongst that list is pretty special.
“I don’t think it will ever sink in.”
Manly coach Des Hasler was fulsome in his praise of the superstar fullback.
“Considering he did it in 15 games it’s an amazing effort.
“He’s a wonderful human being and the way he carries himself with great distinction and great humility.
“They’re other great features that go into the player he is and the reason why we watch,” Hasler said.
Sea Eagles winger Reuben Garrick was the NRL’s top points-scorer for 2021 with a record-breaking 304 points collected via 21 tries and 110 goals.
After scoring 18 points in the last round game against North Queensland Cowboys, Garrick broke Canterbury Bulldogs sharp-shooter Hazem El Masri‘s record of 288 points set in 2004.
Trbojevic is now the third Manly player with Cliff Lyons (1990 and ‘94) and Matt Orford (2008) to win the award.
The Dally M Team of the Year, which features two Manly players, two from Melbourne Storm and six from Penrith Panthers is:
- Tom Trbojevic
- Reuben Garrick
- Justin Olam
- Matt Burton
- Brian To’o
- Cody Walker
- Nathan Cleary
- Isaah Yeo
- Viliame Kikau
- Isaiah Papali’i
- James Fisher-Harris
- Brandon Smith
- Payne Haas