The message to NSW State of Origin selectors from Manly coach Trent Barrett was clear – don’t pick Tom Trbojevic.
The young centre helped spark a revitalised Sea Eagles who gave North Queensland an almighty scare before falling 30-26 at a humid Townsville on Monday night.
Manly still slumped to their seventh straight loss, all but ending their NRL finals hopes.
Barrett said Trbojevic – just 19 – had been one of the club’s rare 2016 success stories.
But asked if Trbojevic should be considered for July 13’s Origin III, Barrett said: “I wouldn’t like to see him picked now.
“I think he is still developing.
“He would handle it no doubt, he’s been a shining light for us, him and his brother (Jake).
“They never give up, they are the future.
“(But) I would like to see him wait a little bit longer.”
Despite being troubled by a niggling ankle complaint, Trbojevic again impressed by amassing 190m from 15 runs plus two line breaks and set up fit again halfback Daly Cherry-Evans’ first half try.
Manly almost silenced the Townsville faithful when they scored three tries in 11 minutes, turning an 18-4 halftime deficit into a 22-18 lead deep into the second half.
Barrett walked away convinced that not only a win but a victory streak was around the corner.
They next host the Dragons at Brookvale on July 4.
“There’s no reason why we can’t come out and win our last six games,” Barrett said.
“Particularly if we have an effort like that and put a bit of polish on a few other things.
“We made a lot of steps in the right direction.
“I think we have set a standard for ourselves.”
Manly appeared on the verge of one of the year’s great upsets when they led 22-18 with 15 minutes left after Siosaia Vave (46th) bulldozed over and fellow bench prop Addin Fonua-Blake steamrolled to a double in five minutes (54th, 59th).
“Addin came on and caused some drama for them – there are some good signs for the club,” Manly captain Jamie Lyon said.
“The effort was good but we need a win, we need a win fast.”
Manly lost winger Brayden Wiliame (concussion) at halftime.