Tom Trbojevic had a game for the ages when making a return for Game Two of the State of Origin series in Perth last year but it might never have happened if he had heeded the advice of Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler.
Trbojevic was ruled out for the opening game at Suncorp Stadium after sufferinga hamstring injury in Round 4 and NSW went down 18-14 to Queensland in a closely-fought battle.
Fittler had no qualms about bringing the Manly Sea Eagles star straight into the starting 17 for Game Two after naming him at right-centre for the do-or-die clash. Trbojevic responded with a stunning hat-trick performance to help NSW claim an emphatic 38-6 victory.
Speaking on Defending The Shield, Fittler jokingly questioned Trbojevic as to why he found himself looming around the middle-third of the field despite being named at right-centre.
"It was obvious you didn't listen to your coach because I said you were right centre but you seemed to be everywhere," Fittler said.
"You seemed to be hanging around the middle of the field, I saw you on the left of the field at stages.
"What was it like to go out do do what you please instead of listening to your coach?"
“I think I was just trying to get into the game a bit out there and it started working for me,” Trbojevic replied.
“I thought, 'why not? I haven’t listened to him (Fittler) all week so why start now?'”
Trbojevic was the first NSW player to score a hat-trick of tries since Matt King in Game Three of the 2005 Origin Series, but he labelled the overall team performance as one of the best he’s ever played in.
They were clinical in attack with a six-try haul and just as committed in defence as they conceded just a penalty try to Will Chambers in the first 15 minutes of play.
“(Have I been part of a more complete performance?) I don’t think so,” he said.
“I think that was a pretty complete (performance). Even the way we defended and put 38 points in an Origin game is special.
“(Conceding) only the one penalty try was special as-well. I think that’s the most complete (performance) I’ve played in.”
Trbojevic finished the match with three tries, one line-break, four tackle-breaks, and 118m, but nothing could set him up for the heart-stopping finish in Game Three which saw him combine with Blake Ferguson on the right-edge for James Tedesco’s series-winning try.
The 23-year-old spoke of Ferguson’s heroic effort as he tip-toed down the touchline and remarkably remained in the field of play while fending off a desperate tackle from Corey Norman.
He admitted their defensive set of six before Tedesco’s try didn’t exactly go as planned although was proud of the teams response in the dying stages.
“I remember standing behind the try-line (after Queensland scored) and we just thought they’re just going to kick from our own half and then we’ll get an opportunity,” he said.
“It probably wasn’t our best defensive set…and we didn’t start off the set too well but then the ball just found its way out the right to Fergo (Ferguson) and he managed to get down the sideline and find Teddy.
“The rest was history. It was awesome to win like that.
“I think we probably would have liked to do it a bit easier there when we were up 20-8, but we got the win so we can’t reflect too much on it.”