Tom Trbojevic’s stellar 2021 NRL season has been rewarded with the Manly star claiming his first Dally M medal.
The brilliant fullback has acknowledged the infamous footrace with “Harry” down the Manly corso gave him a wake up call, as it restricted him to 15 of a possible 24 games this year.
Trbojevic said the fallout from that off-season lair made him realise he had to alter his lifestyle and get serious about his football.
“It’s a bigger part than people realise,” Trbojevic said when asked about that moment in February.
“Obviously it wasn’t an ideal way for it to start for me and it wasn’t a great look for myself and for Manly.
“I had to cop that and change a few things in my life to make me a better footy player. I think I was able to do that which was pleasing.
“It just made me realise I’m a footy player and I wanted to play footy and I hadn’t been doing that enough.
“Obviously I hurt myself and it’s just a bad look on myself. It just made me really focus on what was important.”
At a gala awards night in Brisbane, Trbojevic claimed his first major gong ahead of Penrith’s Nathan Cleary and South Sydney five-eighth Cody Walker.
— NRL (@NRL) September 27, 2021
His 15 games is the least number of games in a campaign of any Dally M or Rothmans Medal winner in the past 50 years, eclipsing Steve Morris’s 16 of a possible 22 in his rookie 1979 campaign with St George.
Trbojevic went into Monday’s awards one vote behind Cleary on counting revealed up to the final six rounds.
A barnstorming finish to the season, featuring 11 tries including three hat-tricks from the Sea Eagles’ last five games was enough for Trbojevic to overhaul Cleary and become the third Manly player alongside Cliff Lyons (1990, 94) and Matt Orford (2008) to win the award.
Johnathan Thurston’s record tally of 36 points came from 22 games in 2007.
“I’ll start off by saying what an honour it is to win this award,” said Trbojevic, who was also named as the competition’s fullback of the year in the team of the year.
“I was reading through the previous winners and to be recognised among that list is pretty special.
“I don’t think it’ll sink in. I’ll thank the NRL and the Queensland government.
“What they’ve done in the last three months has been remarkable in transferring the entire game up here and being able to play footy. To the Manly boys, Dessie, Chez and the group.
“I couldn’t have done it without you. I can’t thank you enough for it. To the family back home, mum and dad you know how much I love you and miss you.
“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me over the years. Without you two I wouldn’t be getting it.”
“On behalf of the game, congratulations to Tom Trbojevic on winning rugby league’s highest individual honour,’’ NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said.
“It’s a remarkable achievement in a remarkable year to poll 3 points in 11 different games.
“Congratulations to every winner. Tonight we reflected on the people and moments of the season. The players. The coaches. The teamwork. The deep tribalism. The unmatched athleticism. The unforgettable moments of brilliance.”
In other awards, Melbourne’s Craig Bellamy won coach of the year for a sixth time with Sydney Roosters captain James Tedesco named captain of the year.
Tedesco’s teenaged Roosters teammate Sam Walker won the rookie of the year prize.
— NRL (@NRL) September 27, 2021
Bellamy oversaw an equal record 19-match winning streak en route to the minor premiership, only to be stunned by Penrith on the weekend and miss a change to defend the title.
“It’s been a really enjoyable year,” said. “We’ve been away for two years.
“We have had our families with us sometimes and sometimes we didn’t.
“All our members in Melbourne have had it pretty tough with no live games but you’ve kept them glued to the TV every weekend.”
Roosters centre Josh Morris won the Provan-Summons Medal for the moment of the year comforting brother Brett as he came off the field during the Roosters’ win over Newcastle, Brett’s last appearance of his career.
Full list of awards on Monday, including positional players of the year.
FULLBACK: Tom Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles).
WINGERS: Reuben Garrick (Manly Sea Eagles) Brian To’o (Penrith Panthers)
CENTRES: Matt Burton (Penrith Panthers), Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm)
FIVE-EIGHTH: Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
HALFBACK: Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers)
PROPS: James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers), Payne Haas (Brisbane Broncos)
HOOKER: Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm)
SECOND-ROWERS: Viliame Kikau (Penrith Panthers), Isaiah Papali’i (Parramatta Eels)
LOCK: Isaah Yeo (Penrith Panthers)
DALLY M MEDAL: Tom Trbojevic
Top Points Scorer: Reuben Garrick (Manly)
Top Try Scorer (Ken Irvine Medal): Alex Johnston (South Sydney)
Peter Frilingos Headline Moment: Melbourne Storm’s 19-match winning streak
Try of the Year: Tom Trbojevic (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)
Tackle of the Year: Xavier Coates (Brisbane Broncos)
Hardest Working Player of the Year: Isaiah Papali’i (Parramatta Eels)
Big congratulations to Tom Trbojevic for winning this year's NRL Try of the Year ???????? pic.twitter.com/0dxBdgIufG
— NSWBlues (@NSWBlues) September 21, 2021