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A defiant Tom Trbojevic has proved his State of Origin fitness with a stunning display, carving up Canberra in Manly’s 42-14 win.
The Sea Eagles’ fullback was unstoppable at GIO Stadium, scoring a hat-trick and looking at his threatening best in his final outing before NSW coach Brad Fittler names his side for the series opener.
Trbojevic has been hampered by a hamstring injury but is now almost certain to be picked in the centres for Game 1 after leading Manly to a much-needed win.
It snapped their three-game losing slide and let them square the ledger at 5-1-5 for the year, while it left the Raiders tasting defeat for the first time since round five.
The star No.1 denied he’d had extra motivation to deliver with some questioning if he was physically ready for Origin, instead focusing on helping his side find winning form.
“To be honest, it wasn’t … I was just really focused on doing my job here for the team and putting in a good performance,” Trbojevic said.
Manly congratulate Tom Trbojevic after one of his three tries.Credit: NRL Photos
“Those selections come on the back of that so that’s what I’ve been focused on.
“We’re really happy as a team with the performance we put in, to come out here to Canberra at this time of year, it’s really tough to get a win.
“We’re really happy with the way we performed across the 80 minutes.”
Aside from running for 173m, Trbojevic’s brilliant outing featured 10 tackle busts, two offloads, three line breaks and two line break assists, the sort of form that would have NSW fans licking their lips ahead of the opening Origin contest on May 31.
Five-eighth Josh Schuster put in his best shift of the season, scoring on the hour mark to go with his earlier three assists, while late tries for Jason Saab and Ben Condon completed the rout.
Trbojevic’s brother Jake also looked to prove his fitness for Blues selection after returning ahead of schedule from a calf injury, playing 58 minutes and running for 47m to go with 31 tackles.
“A really pleasing performance from the players … we had a really good preparation during the week to come here,” Manly coach Anthony Seibold said.
“We were really determined particularly to improve our first half … I was pleased for Tom and Jake and Josh to play well today, those three guys were really influential.”
It was Canberra’s flattest performance since a 53-12 pummelling against Penrith and promptly ended their five-match winning streak.
The Raiders looked lifeless in attack, and powerless to stop Trbojevic and the rampaging Sea Eagles in defence.
But Canberra coach Ricky Stuart denied it would undo the progress made in their recent wins, saying confidence wouldn’t be affected.
“We’ll just strap back on the horse,” he said.
“I’m not going to come in and say we came here all cocky and confident – we didn’t.
“We prepared to play the game that Manly played tonight … it’s a team we prepared to play but there’s patches of play we weren’t happy with, we were letting ourselves down.”
Queensland hopeful Corey Horsburgh (132m, four offloads) put in another gutsy shift but was hardly influential, while NSW chance Hudson Young (83m) was quiet and spent 10 minutes in the bin for sparking an all-in scuffle after Schuster’s try.
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