Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns said it was “sad” to watch a hobbled Tom Trbojevic on Friday night while Darren Lockyer questioned whether NSW could pick the superstar fullback for the State of Origin opener.
Trbojevic was a shadow of his usual self in Manly’s 38-0 capitulation to Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium in his second NRL game back from a serious knee injury.
The 25-year-old told Nine’s Johnathan Thurston that he would be “good to go” for Origin but Johns said the harsh truth was he was miles off the pace.
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“He’s not fit. It’s sad to see a champion like that playing on one leg,” Johns said.
“He can’t break tackles. And it’s easy for us to sit here and say ‘he shouldn’t be playing’ – sometimes the decision has to be taken out of his hands.
“The medical staff have to be strong and say ‘no Turbo, you’re not playing.’ It is so sad to see. From the outside looking in it’s sad to see Turbo not being able to compete.”
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Johns pinpointed Trbojevic pulling out of a challenge for Corey Oates’ try as a surefire sign that things weren’t right.
“That never happens – champion players compete on everything. It was hard to watch. He’s like 50 per cent fit.”
Trbojevic wore heavy strapping tape on his knee after returning from a PCL injury last week and also has a long history of hamstring injuries.
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“There’s a bit of concern for (NSW coach) Brad Fittler,” Maroons selector Lockyer said.
“I don’t know if it gets better but at the moment he’s probably at 80 per cent. It would be a big call not to pick Turbo but I just don’t think he’s where he needs to be to be playing Origin right now. He might be in a couple of weeks but right now he’s struggling.”
Playing in the centres, Trbojevic won the Wally Lewis Medal for Origin man of the series last year.
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He was dejected after the heavy defeat but vowed to play through his ailments.
“It’s not too bad, I got a couple of knocks elsewhere so we’ll sort that out and be good to go next week,” Trbojevic said.
“I’ll be all good to go (for Origin). I’ll get myself right and go again.”
Manly coach Des Hasler also played down the Trbojevic injury angst.
“He’s OK, he’s getting back obviously – still not quite there at the moment but he’s OK,” Hasler said.
“He won’t use that as an excuse, we were just off tonight.”