Tom Trbojevic faces an extended stint on the sidelines but Des Hasler is hailing Manly’s 14-6 NRL win over Canberra as one of the best he’s seen in 493 games at the club.
Trbojevic was one of three Sea Eagles injured in the win, limping off with a hamstring injury in the second half.
He was rushed in for scans on Sunday night, alongside Dylan Walker. The five-eighth hurt his ankle as Manly finished the game with just one man on the bench.
Trbojevic injured the same hamstring twice last year, once in the pre-season and in the early rounds which led to him missing half of the 2019 campaign.
Early diagnosis from the Sea Eagles suggested the Dally M Medal leader would spend around six weeks on the sidelines after having a hand in both of Manly’s tries in the first half.
It came, though, in one of the gutsiest wins in Manly’s history, after they had just two on the bench from the fourth minute and one for most of the second half.
Already without Martin Taupau, Moses Suli and Jorge Taufua before the match, they lost Walker and Brad Parker to concussion in the opening stages.
“It’s one of the best wins I’ve seen in a maroon-and-white jersey,” said Hasler, having played and coached a combined 493 games at the club.
“Particularly against a quality outfit against Canberra. We lost one in the third minute, one in the fourth minute and Turbo just after halftime.
“We had back-rowers playing centre and back-rowers playing No.6. But they showed enough to hang in there.
“Wins like that help your season.”
Hasler also backed his players to perform without Trbojevic, after they won just five of 14 last year without him.
“I’m not too concerned,” Hasler said.
“Obviously later in the season, there might have been more drama. There is still time to go.
“He’s just disappointed. He loves playing footy so that will be the hardest part.”
Lachlan Croker also played on and impressed after a head clash, making a tackle on his own line from the next play with blood spurting out of his eye socket and needing three stitches.
And through all that, Manly still had to protect their 12-0 halftime lead against a Raiders team who were being touted a fortnight ago as competition favourites.
After Elliott Whitehead scored Canberra’s first try in the 50th minute via some smart hands from Jack Wighton, the Raiders had their chances.
Curtis Sironen pulled off arguably the most-important play of the game, putting Jordan Rapana into touch as he looked to score with 10 minutes to play with the score at 14-6.
Moments later, he shut down Wighton on the last tackle, as Canberra again had numbers on the left.
Jarrod Croker was denied, ruled to have knocked on when he came down with a George Williams bomb just short of the line.
“I think, at times, what killed us is we tried too hard at times,” Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said.
“Really disappointing considering the adversity Manly had to play under. We made a job a lot harder than it should have been.”
Earlier, Trbojevic had Manly’s first try in the 14th minute when he sliced through Canberra’s defence on the left edge and pushed his way over the line.
Just before halftime, he put a ball on Tevita Funa’s chest for the winger to cut back in and go between two defenders to make it 12-0.