Manly not NRL contenders, yet: Trbojevic

Jake Trbojevic is keeping expectations in check despite Manly's rise into the NRL top four.
Jake Trbojevic is keeping expectations in check despite Manly's rise into the NRL top four.

Manly enforcer Jake Trbojevic continues to insist the giant-killing Sea Eagles aren't proven top-four contenders, pointing to their lack of NRL finals experience.

With three games to play in the regular season, Des Hasler's side have been the fairytale story of the competition, brushing off expectations to sit fourth.

While brimming with self belief, Trbojevic points out the Sea Eagles have been to the finals just once since 2015 and most of the squad aren't experienced September campaigners.

And statistics show that of the six sides who have locked in a finals berth, the Sea Eagles are the least experienced when it comes to finals football.

According to Fox Sports Stats, the entire Manly squad has a total of just 45 finals games between them, trailing Melbourne (176), the Sydney Roosters (176), South Sydney (101), Parramatta (62) and Canberra (55).

Cameron Smith (36) and Cooper Cronk (35) almost single-handedly have more finals experience than the Sea Eagles squad.

"That's going to be the biggest test for us - we haven't had a lot of experience in finals the last few years, those teams have," said Trbojevic, who himself only has one finals game to his credit.

"That's going to be something we're going to have to learn.

"We've got Dessy there who's very experienced in finals footy, so hopefully he can lead us really well and we can get a few wins there."

A second bite of the cherry is within reach but Manly face an acid test over the next fortnight with match-ups against third-placed Canberra and leaders Melbourne before finishing the regular season against fellow top-four contenders Parramatta.

Asked if they felt like a top-four team yet, Trbojevic said: "Probably not.

"The Storm, Roosters, Canberra, Rabbitohs, they've been up there the whole year.

"We've only just snuck in there on for-and-against right now. We probably haven't done it consistently.

"Those teams are still the benchmark right now.

"It's good to put ourselves in a position to compete with them in the back end of the year."

Asked about his advice to his teammates regarding big-game footy, Trbojevic said: "The pace of the game goes to another level, it hits you really quick.

"You get bigger crowds so there's a lot of energy there.

"It's about getting off to a good start, trying to build pressure, you can't be too inconsistent, you've got to be really patient and points come at the back end of the half."

Australian Associated Press