When Des Hasler returned to Brookvale for the 2019 season, there was a sense of renewed optimism in the Manly Sea Eagles club.
Tom Trbojevic is a huge loss to Manly fans, and not only because their team is now officially stuffed.
It’s also because he was born and raised in Mona Vale, has probably never trekked further south than The Spit, and is as culturally significant to the region as a flag pole on The Corso flying a pair of Beaver Menzies’ Speedos.
Alongside brother Jake and the rest of his footballer factory family, Tom has entrenched the Trbojevic name in Manly’s pantheon of iconic monikers alongside other celebrated family titles like Fulton, Cleal, Toovey and Kaspersky.
This week’s outpouring of grief on the Northern Beaches further highlights this rejuvenated appreciation of its own, a lost hallmark of the organisation that roared back in to overdrive following the success of the Trent Barrett era.
Such was the parlous state left by Barrett’s foreign control, Manly found a candidate for replacement who’d once abandoned them for a cross-town rival before leaving its roster in ruin and threatening to sue on the way out, and said “he’s our man.”
A roaring 2019 has meant they haven’t looked back since, with the successful re-coupling with favourite son Des Hasler seeing the club pledging to a new future of diversification; that being, a wider range of Manly people.
Hasler’s resurrection of Manly has reaffirmed it can only be run by someone who knows the fabric of its demountables, ensuring the Insular Peninsular should now permanently remain at a level of border protection that would make Tony Abbott blush.
For the uninitiated, the Sea Eagles have always been an all-accepting mafia that flings open its doors to everyone, provided you’re a Stewart, Hopoate, Krilich, or a bulk package of Western Suburbs Magpies.
Such is the organisation’s cultural reliance on an exclusive family vibe, it is rumoured the club was only sold to the Penns only after a strict vetting process ensured there were more than one.
Putting Tom’s irreplaceable high-end talent aside, that’s why the 50 per cent reduction in Trbojevic for the semi-finals has seen Sea Eagles fans showing their appreciation for his talents by abandoning hope in droves.
Trbojevic’s injury came on a disastrous night against Melbourne, with everything going wrong for Hasler’s men in the latest instalment of a bitter rivalry recently recoined under naming rights from The Battle of Brookvale to The Cheap-Shotto at Lotto.
Not only did the Sea Eagles sustain a massive loss both on scoreboard and personnel, but the actions of a rogue fan towards Will Chambers resulted in an ultimatum from the NRL to improve player safety or be forced to play somewhere that isn’t a pot-holed dog park.
Nevertheless, Hasler’s men are talking tough despite the hammer-blow on the eve of their finals campaign.
Players are scoffing at suggestions their premiership shot is cactus by bravely declaring its business as usual, a claim many view as a veiled cry for help to Arko to start making calls to have Brendan Elliott’s visa cleared in time.
Whatever occurs, you can rest assured Sea Eagles officials have already instructed its famous bloodline breeding program to begin production and/or identification of more Manly people forthwith- a program of cloning now considered ethical after being cleansed of dodgy third party money.
This will see the commencement of Soviet-style manufacturing of Elsegoods while scouts cast the net for talent as far north as Narrabeen and all the way down to the deep south of Dee Why, with the only exception to break borders to raid Blacktown for juniors.
Nevertheless, Manly’s inward-looking approach is bearing fruit under Hasler once again, which is great because it means the rest of us can eventually get back to doing what we do best: irrationally hating them.
The club is back on top and under the radar, and rugby league should celebrate them – with all due respect – as the game’s greatest inbreds.