New love behind Tom Trbojevic's record-breaking Dally M triumph

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·Sports Editor
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Tom Trbojevic and Kristi Wilkinson, pictured here at the Dally M awards.
Tom Trbojevic and Kristi Wilkinson at the Dally M awards. Image: Getty

Tom Trbojevic has capped off his record-breaking NRL season by winning the Dally M medal.

Trbojevic's magnificent season for Manly was rewarded on Monday night when the Sea Eagles fullback won his maiden Dally M medal.

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Because of his infamous footrace with a fan down the Manly corso that injured his hamstring in the off-season, the 24-year-old only played 15 of a possible 24 games this year.

However he still managed to poll 35 points to win the medal ahead of Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary (30) and South Sydney's Cody Walker (29).

Trbojevic attended Monday night's ceremony with new girlfriend Kristi Wilkinson, who he started dating earlier this year.

The Manly superstar's incredible form seems to have coincided with his newfound happiness off the field.

Trbojevic and 22-year-old Wilkinson reportedly met through mutual friends and began dating earlier this year.

They made their relationship ‘Instagram-official’ in April, with Wilkinson posting a picture with the caption “duo”.

It seems no coincidence that Tommy Turbo's incredible on-field form came around the time he started dating Wilkinson.

Wake-up call that sparked Tom Trbojevic's epic year

On Monday night, Trbojevic said his off-season injury made him realise he had to alter his lifestyle and get serious about his football.

"It's a bigger part than people realise," Trbojevic said when asked about that moment in February.

"Obviously it wasn't an ideal way for it to start for me and it wasn't a great look for myself and for Manly.

"I had to cop that and change a few things in my life to make me a better footy player. I think I was able to do that which was pleasing.

"It just made me realise I'm a footy player and I wanted to play footy and I hadn't been doing that enough.

"Obviously hurt myself and it's just a bad look on myself. It just made me really focus on what was important."

Trbojevic has since settled down off the field, finding love with Wilkinson, and the on-field results have shown.

Tom Trbojevic and Kristi Wilkinson, pictured here at the NRL 2021 Dally M Awards.
Tom Trbojevic and Kristi Wilkinson at the NRL 2021 Dally M Awards. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

His Dally M triumph is the third time a Manly player has won the gong after Cliff Lyons (1990, 94) and Matt Orford (2008).

It's also the least number of games in a campaign of any Dally M or Rothmans Medal winner in the past 50 years, eclipsing Steve Morris's 16 of a possible 22 in his rookie 1979 campaign with St George.

Trbojevic went into Monday's awards one vote behind Cleary on counting revealed up to the final six rounds.

A barnstorming finish to the season, featuring 11 tries including three hat-tricks from the Sea Eagles' last five games, was easily enough for Trbojevic to overhaul the Panthers' half, who finished runner-up for the second straight year.

Johnathan Thurston's record tally of 36 points came from 22 games in 2007.

In other awards, Melbourne's Craig Bellamy won coach of the year with Sydney Roosters captain James Tedesco named captain of the year

Tedesco's teenaged Roosters teammate Sam Walker won the rookie of the year prize.

DALLY M 2021 WINNERS' LIST

Dally M Player of the Year - Tom Trbojevic (Manly)

TEAM OF THE YEAR

Props - Payne Haas (Brisbane), James Fisher-Harris (Penrith)

Second Row - Viliame Kikau (Penrith), Isaiah Papali'i (Parramatta)

Lock - Isaah Yeo (Penrith)

Wingers - Brian To'o (Penrith), Reuben Garrick (Manly)

Centres - Matt Burton (Penrith), Justin Olam (Melbourne)

Five-eighth - Cody Walker (South Sydney)

Halfback - Nathan Cleary (Penrith)

Hooker - Brandon Smith (Melbourne)

Fullback - Tom Trbojevic (Manly)

Rookie of the Year - Sam Walker (Sydney Roosters)

Captain of the Year - James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)

Coach of the Year - Craig Bellamy (Melbourne)

with AAP

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