Manly fans will get a good look at the club’s future when boom rookie Tom Trbojevic makes his NRL debut against Canberra in Albury on Saturday.
Considered one of rugby league’s most promising rising stars, Trbojevic was drafted into the Sea Eagles side by coach Geoff Toovey on Friday after Steve Matai was ruled out with an ongoing shoulder injury.
Trbojevic, 18, has dominated the National Youth Competition this year at fullback and will join older brother interchange forward Jake, 21, in Toovey’s outfit to face the Raiders.
With captain Jamie Lyon also missing with a groin injury, Trbojevic will likely slot onto the wing, with Peta Hiku moving to centre for Matai.
Brayden Wiliame will play in Lyon’s right centre spot.
There has been plenty of gloom and doom about the future at Brookvale after Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans both confirmed their 2016 departures last month, and understandably so.
But in the Trbojevic brothers, Manly have two bankable stars.
Jake has already impressed in the NRL this year, after making his debut in 2013 and missing all of last year with a leg injury.
“Two brothers playing together, two local juniors, it is very exciting,” Toovey said.
“It is a big step up for Tom, but he deserves an opportunity.
“We will just give him a taste of it and see how we goes.
“Taking him away to the Nines was a bit of a litmus test for him, he held that well and there was no obvious issues with his play so I think he will handle it well.
“I’m not putting any pressure on him, he’s only just finished school, he is a smart kid, and we will just play it by ear and see how he goes.
“I’m excited but I’m also nervous for Tom, but they are confident kids, they have come up through the system, their enthusiasm and excitement is infectious and you will see that throughout the game.”
The omission of Matai adds to a horror injury list for Manly who like Canberra are 1-3 to start the season.
Joining Matai and Lyon on the sidelines for the clash at Lavington Sports Groud is Brenton Lawrence (back), Feleti Mateo (ankle), Josh Starling (knee) Jorge Taufua (knee), Clinton Gutherson (knee), Tony Satini (shoulder) and Blake Leary (back).
“There is a fair bit of pressure on the roster there but in saying that we have some great young players who can fill those positions,” Toovey said.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has reworked his halves since last week’s big loss to Sydney Roosters.
Sam Williams comes in to partner five-eighth Blake Austin with Mitch Cornish dropped, in Canberra’s only change.
KEY STATS * Manly has dominated this clash recently, winning their past five and 12 of their past 14 matches against the Raiders.
* The Raiders two wins from 13 matches against Manly since the beginning of 2005 is their worst record against any team in this period.
* A loss for Manly would see them have their worst ever start to a season since 2009 when they also won just one of their opening five matches.
* Manly has struggled for results since late last season, winning just one of their past seven matches.
* Brett Stewart needs just one try to become just the 10th player in history to reach the 150 try milestone.