Young gun Tom Trbojevic is putting real heat on coach Trent Barrett to dump Brett Stewart from the Manly No.1 jersey as the club legend struggles for form and fitness.
Deputising for Stewart at fullback, Trbojevic gave Barrett real food for thought as he guided the Sea Eagles to a drought-breaking 36-6 NRL win over St George Illawarra on Monday night.
Trbojevic sparked his side in attack, setting up Jorge Taufua’s first try with a sweetly-timed cut-out ball and saving another with some great cover defence up the other end.
His five-star display led Parramatta legend Peter Sterling to declare that it was time for Barrett to bite the bullet and shift the 19-year-old into the custodian role.
Stewart is being hindered by a niggling knee injury and Barrett admitted he was no certainty to return after the bye against Warriors.
The 31-year-old is in the midst of a 10-game scoring drought – the longest of his career.
The stats show Stewart has been a shadow of his former self, accumulating just one linebreak and six tackle busts this year according to Fox Sports Stats.
Barrett said the two-time premiership winner would be afforded his allegiance but admitted that Trbojevic was making a compelling case.
“Brett by his own admission has been struggling with a little bit of injury,” Barrett said.
“I would have played him tonight if he was fully fit. He is a legend of the club and when Snake’s 100 per cent, he can do things on a football field that no one else can.
“I think he deserves for us to show him the respect that he’s earned.
“I hope Snake can overcome the niggling knee injury he’s got at the moment. When he’s not there, we’ve got Tom and he’s a terrific player of the future.
“I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”
Trbojevic was on Monday named as a development player for the NSW squad for State of Origin III and will join the team in camp at Coffs Harbour on Tuesday.
And while he’s been earmarked as a representative player of the future, he hosed down talk he was putting pressure on Stewart.
“I don’t think so mate, Snake’s our No.1,” Trbojevic said.
“He’s been Manly’s No.1 for 10 years, he’s been one of the best players ever to play in the Manly No.1 jersey so I’m certainly not pushing his spot.”