With Tom Trbojevic firing on all cylinders upon returning from injury, Manly must now smartly manage his workload by frontloading bulk matches before his hamstring inevitably re-erupts.
It is a radical move that will ensure Des Hasler can combat a concerning trend emerging among his squad that sees every player refusing to conduct themselves like first-graders unless the champion fullback is on the park.
As seen in Manly’s stunning win over Gold Coast on Saturday, Trbojevic’s presence alone lifts the no-frills Sea Eagles physically and most notably psychologically, mainly because his 94.5 ATAR means he is the only bloke who can decipher Hasler’s instructions.
However, after four hamstring injuries in two years and a range of other frustrating impairments the club must remain mindful their prized commodity is officially the most decrepit body in the league now Wayne Bennett can dance post-match without dissolving.
As such, the Sea Eagles must capitalise on his health by forcing his brittle body to play as many games as possible in the shortest period of time before he makes his unavoidable return to life under the physio’s knuckles.
This will be best achieved by compressing the entire season into one block, which based on factors like sports science, Trbojevic’s injury record and his daily shower routine would only require the club to play its last 18 matches inside a three week period.
However, experts have warned that keeping the champion fullback intact for this marathon 21 days would still require a special management program of extreme cotton wool, such as a reduced training schedule or quarantining his hamstrings in a hub safe from the outside dangers of the world, like drunken sprinters.
Trbojevic made a barnstorming return in the Sea Eagles’ emphatic 36-0 romp over the Titans, further highlighting his exorbitant 85 per cent slice of the club’s salary cap and how it’s breathtaking value considering he’s 100 per cent load-bearing.
The 24-year-old wasted no time slipping back in to ‘Bequeath Mode’, instantly endowing the ragged Manly side with a desire and potency only seen this year in brother Jake’s impassioned pleas.
Running for 187 metres in Manly’s biggest win since Round 2, 2018, the Origin rep scored one try and had a hand in three others while capably rallying a defensive unit whose only previous cohesion was shown grouping together under the posts.
Trbojevic’s 2021 has reinforced his reputation as one of the NRL’s gifted unicorns, a specimen bestowed with size, skill and core sinew as resilient as a wonky stack of Saladas.
He remains unrivalled for his indelible influence on teammates despite the disrupted season, with his company alone still making Brad Parker look like Mal Meninga, Jason Saab look like Brett Mullins and Kieran Foran look like a healthy footballer.
With Trbojevic now in the rare form of being on the park, Manly should abandon its demands for greater player safety by requesting more five-day turnarounds, provided they are shorter and more frequent.
The Sea Eagles’ compressed draw would mimic that deployed by various codes throughout the infamous COVID shutdown, a global pandemic coincidentally also missed by Turbo due to injury.
By dangerously compressing their schedule, Manly can maximise his chalky joints in the hope of fulfilling the club’s dream of being there on the coveted first Sunday in July.