NSW turmoil continues as Turbo’s hamstring goes again and Manly chuck away another lead in Dolphins disaster


Tom Trbojevic has limped out with a suspected hamstring injury as Manly again threw away a commanding lead to lose, this time 30-24 to a Dolphins side that is going places fast in 2024.

Turbo had already sent a scare through the Sea Eagles camp – not to mention New South Wales – by staying down with an ankle injury, and when he walked off with ten minutes to play, it looks as if that would be the issue.

Reports from the sideline, however, suggested hamstring and, if true, that would be his fifth such injury and likely the start of a lengthy stint on the sidelines and a potential issue for the Blues with Origin a month away.

It will overshadow what was another collapse from Manly, who led 16-4 in the first half but were pegged back by three Dolphins tries in five minutes, a frequent occurrence these days for Anthony Seibold.

It had looked like being a tale of two high tackles.

One, by Jesse Bromwich, saved Manly as the lightest of touches to the face of Trbojevic lead to a successful challenge from the Sea Eagles than gave them the field position from which Reuben Garrick kicked the go-ahead penalty goal to make it 22-20.

Another, from Josh Aloiai, smashed Max Plath full in the face and ended his night, but only resulted in a penalty. The lock was falling, but the contrast in contact was stark.

Lucky for the referees, the penalty saw Redcliffe march into position and convert into Jack Bostock’s winning try.

At the heart of that, and most of what the Dolphins did, was Isaiya Katoa.

The young halfback is fast becoming a superstar under Wayne Bennett and underlined that with another superb showing with maturity well beyond his years and vital interventions in good ball.

Alongside him was rookie fullback Trai Fuller, who blew the game wide open with a solo try reminiscent of Billy Slater’s famous score in Origin on this ground back in 2004.

Manly also lost Jason Saab early to a suspected AC joint injury, ending the game with Tolu Koula at the back, Garrick on the wing, Karl Lawton in the centres and next to nobody on the bench.

Trai Fuller, take a bow! ????#NRLDolphinsManly pic.twitter.com/BfD8hXBwwd

— NRL (@NRL) May 9, 2024

The definition of insanity

In 2024, Manly have been all attack all the time, with little control on the dial. Attack is great, but the commitment to the bit has led them to throw passes that didn’t need to be thrown and to let positive game states slip through overexuberance.

It looked like that had changed tonight.

After an early shift lead to almost running straight off the field in the wet, they switched away in the direction of kicking for 40/20s, confident at the very worst, they’d turn it over somewhere more defensible.

It wasn’t always right – DCE threw an intercept for the Dolphins’ first try – but the adaptation to a slightly more conservative game plan paid dividends.

All three first half tries were off forced errors – one a strong hit, the other a ball steal and an intercept – and things were going well at 16-4 up.

Then, of course, it all went to pot again.

Trbojevic ???? Trbojevic#NRLDolphinsManly pic.twitter.com/EB7vgnv16V

— NRL (@NRL) May 9, 2024

Five sets, three tries and the score had turned without the Sea Eagles touching the footy.

This happened in Round 3 at Parramatta and subsequently against the Titans, Warriors, Dragons and Raiders: a lack of control, intensity and resilience.

If this Manly side could hold out for any length of time, they’d be Premiership contenders. Instead, they’re anything but.

Bennett has to find a place for Fuller

Wayne Bennett has made some tough decisions in his time as a coach – and he has another one brewing next week.

He’ll get Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow back from his hamstring tear, and will be expected to return last year’s best player to his preferred position of fullback, but in doing so, would be forced to find somewhere else for 2024’s breakout star, Trai Fuller.

At times in 2023, the Hammer was repurposed as a centre with injuries elsewhere, but in doing that, it would likely have to be Jake Averillo who pays the price.

Fuller was electric in attack, producing one of the tries of the year with a superb chip and chase that showed just how dangerous he can be in broken play.

In defence, too, he saved two tries in quick succession with a tackle to stop Tommy Talau and another, two plays later, to deny Ethan Bullemor on the other side of the field.

It was all effort and heart from a player with buckets of it, in front of a coach who values those facets very highly indeed.

INTERCEPT! ????#NRLDolphinsManly @Telstra Moment of the Match pic.twitter.com/NSofAzu1SH

— NRL (@NRL) May 9, 2024

The Hammer, though, has all of those elements and more. If he is fit, he’s one of Redcliffe’s biggest talents and can reach heights that few others in Phins colours can.

Fuller can only really play at fullback whereas Tabuai-Fidow could shift to centre, but Bennett will have to judge the performance of Averilllo, first, and then contemplate how much he might lose with the Hammer not at the back.

Using Fuller as a 14 is an option, but it doesn’t solve the issue – it just knocks it into the long grass.

Assuming Hammer goes to Origin, Fuller will be straight back in regardless, but for now, it’s one for Bennett to ponder.

Given where they were last year, this – to quote Marlo Stanfield from The Wire – sounds like one of them good problems.

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