Trbojevic returns serve at captaincy critics after debut Origin cameo by StuffsEarth

Estimated read time 14 min read



NSW captain Jake Trbojevic is unfazed by the prospect of playing limited minutes again this State of Origin series, shrugging off the criticism that followed his cameo in game one.

Meanwhile, the Blues insisted second-rower Liam Martin is on track to play in the must-win second game despite missing training to rest his toe injury on Wednesday.

Trbojevic played only 29 minutes after starting the series opener in the front row. His second stint in his first game as captain came in the last four minutes, with victory out of NSW’s reach.

The prop’s bit part in the 38-10 loss emboldened critics of Michael Maguire’s decision to name Trbojevic as skipper, a role he has not held on a full-time basis in 12 seasons at Manly.

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But Trbojevic’s passion for Origin and status among his peers have made him a popular choice internally, even after criticism from former Origin players including Mark Geyer and Darryl Brohman.

Ahead of Origin II in Melbourne on June 26, Trbojevic was confident in his leadership as NSW camp got underway in the Blue Mountains.

“If people think I shouldn’t be (captain), that’s fine,” he said. “I’m not going to apologise for doing my best, that’s all I’m going to do. Whether it’s good enough or not, time will tell. 

“I was maybe a bit standoffish at the start (of the series) because there are some great players there, great captains.

“It’s been a better start to the camp for myself (this time around) … hopefully I can just keep building.”

Maguire has explained Trbojevic’s reduced role in game one came as a result of Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii’s dismissal in the opening minutes at Accor Stadium.

But Trbojevic insisted he would not object to having his minutes curtailed again if plans needed to change in game two.

“Any time that you get to play for the Blues is extremely special, it doesn’t really matter about the minutes,” he said.

“I’m just happy to be out there. The way things worked out with being one down (in game one) and chasing points, it was just the way it worked out.”

The Blues’ 17 features full-time club captains in the shape of three-time premiership-winning Penrith skipper Isaah Yeo, South Sydney’s Cam Murray and Canterbury’s Stephen Crichton.

“I’ve got lots of great leaders around me, so that’s a positive,” Trbojevic said.

Liam Martin of the Blues reacts after tackling Reuben Cotter of the Maroons during game one of the 2024 Men's State of Origin Series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 05, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
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Liam Martin puts a big shot on Reuben Cotter. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“If I’m off, there’s so many great club captains out there, great leaders, really good players.

“That puts me at ease a bit, I don’t have to try and be something I’m not.”

Penrith’s Martin watched on as his teammates trained on Wednesday for the first time since entering their Blue Mountains camp for game two.

The second-rower hurt his left big toe during the first half of Origin I on June 5 and needed painkilling injections to play on.

After being diagnosed with minor ligament damage and missing round 14 of the NRL, Martin played in Penrith’s 26-18 defeat of Newcastle on Sunday but wore a moon boot until game day.

The Blues expect he will return to the field for their next training session on Thursday and line up on June 26.

“Because we’re training two days in a row, he was just resting today,” Trbojevic said. 

“He’s all good to go.”

© AAP

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