Australian Test captain Cameron Smith says the experience of the Rugby League World Cup will help take Tom Trbojevic’s game to another level.
Manly Media Manager Wayne Cousins caught up with the respected Melbourne Storm and Kangaroos leader to talk about Tom and Jake Trbojevic.
Tom will make his Test debut in Canberra on Friday night against France, a match that will see Smith play his 36th consecutive Test and pass the record held by Clive Churchill for the most consecutive Tests for Australia.
Wayne: How much of a learning experience is the World Cup for Tom Trbojevic and what would you do if you were him on his first Kangaroos camp?
Cameron: Prior to this tournament, I hadn’t had too much to do with young Tommy apart from saying g’day after a game, but speaking to former team-mate (Manly five-eighth) Blake Green, Tommy is a wonderful young man who just loves playing the game, loves being around his team-mates, and every time he is out on the field, he is out there doing his best. Watching from afar, he is a special talent. He has got some wonderful, natural ability. This World Cup is a good opportunity for him to grow his skills and expand on them. He has a great opportunity now to be a part of a squad that has arguably the greatest ever full-back in Billy Slater. If I was Tommy, I be picking Billy’s brain about where he can take his game to the next level.
Wayne: When Manly play the Melbourne Storm, how much preparation is there on trying to shut down a player like Tom Trbojevic?
Cameron: Tommy features quite frequently in our video sessions when we play Manly. He is the type of player who like I said, has a lot of natural ability, so it is hard to plan for any that type of stuff. You really just need to be on high alert when he has the ball in his hands and you need to be committed if he is coming at you to make that tackle. He is a strong carrier of the football and that is his strength. He has had a phenomenal year. You can do as much homework as you want on him but he is still going to have quite an influence on the game, so it is about trying to minimise that influence.
Wayne: From the Four Nations tournament, the Origin Series, to the World Cup, how much of a change have you seen in Jake Trbojevic over the past 12 months?
Cameron: From watching him play throughout the NRL season this year, to playing against him in Origin, I have seen him grow in confidence. He is now one of the leaders at Manly. He was a pretty shy, young bloke when he first came into the Australian camp in Perth. I think he really grew in that six weeks we were together overseas for the Four Nations in that he came out of his shell a little bit. I could see that quite clearly this year with the way he played his football. He made sure all of his games counted for Manly this year. That is a natural progression as he is still quite young. He certainly took on more of a leadership role at Manly and that’s because of his experience on that tour last year with the Australian side.
Wayne: What’s it like to play against a tough, hard-working lock like Jake then?
Cameron: Jake is rock solid. Every part of his job he does on the field, he does extremely well. He is a strong defender, he carries the ball well, and he is always popping up in support around the football. For a young guy, he has got a great temperament. He doesn’t try and overplay his hand at all. He just does what he is asked to do by his coach and he does it to the best of his ability, and that’s why he gets picked in these representative teams.
Wayne: So you know when you have been hit by a Jake Trbojevic special?
Cameron: (laughs). He is not overly big as far as any of the forwards in our competition go, but he has got great technique and is quite strong for one of the smaller forwards. I don’t get tackled by him too much as I get to pick and choose who I get to run at (laughs) but I know my Melbourne Storm team-mates always comment about Jake after a game when he gets a hold of them and how much it hurts. It is the same when he runs the ball. He is just rock hard with his body. He does everything at a million miles an hour and that’s what makes him so good as well.
Wayne: Thanks for talking the Trbojevics and Manly, Cameron.
Cameron: Thanks mate, appreciate it.