Tom Trbojevic influence key to NRL finals

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Tom Trbojevic has produced one of the great seasons for Manly as statistics confirm his influence outweighs any other marquee player in the modern NRL era.

Trbojevic insisted on Monday the Sea Eagles could continue their free-wheeling style into the finals, adamant they did not need to tighten up on Friday against Melbourne.

The 24-year-old's 2021 season will long be held in high esteem after scoring 25 tries and setting up 30 in 15 matches.

That level of involvement towers over Jarryd Hayne in 2009 and Ben Barba in 2012, despite playing less games.

Beyond that, Manly's rebound from their worst-ever opening month in both attack and defence without Trbojevic to finish fourth on the ladder emphasises his importance.

Since Des Hasler's 2019 arrival, Manly are 20.37 points better off with Trbojevic playing - going from an average losing margin of 7.43 without him to winning by 12.94 with him.

In comparison, Newcastle were 10.6 points better off with rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns throughout his career, while North Queensland were 9.9 points superior with Johnathan Thurston.

Trbojevic's influence in 2021 extends to 32.5 points with him in the team.

"The Barba, Hayne, and Lockyer's (in 2006), are amazing seasons," skipper Daly Cherry-Evans told AAP

"The game's changed so much but Tom's season deserves to be in that category and will be talked about for a very long time.

"He's doing stuff at the moment that I've never seen a teammate do, things not many people in the history of the game could."

Nowhere is Trbojevic's influence on Manly clearer than his combination with Jason Saab.

When Trbojevic plays and draws defenders to create space, speedster Saab has scored 22 tries in 15 games this year.

Without him, he has one try in nine matches.

"Half the time he makes that break or puts you down the sideline, Saab said.

"But with Cherry, (Kieran) Foran and even our ball-players in the middle and on the edges, they come alive when Turbo is around.

"It takes the pressure off other players. Defensively teams are looking at Turbo.

"Sometimes he can just be the bait that makes it so easy for our halves."

The influence makes Trbojevic the most important man of the finals.

But the fullback insists he does not feel any extra pressure, and typically shies away from comparisons to the greats.

What he is confident of though is that neither his or Manly's game shouldn't change, even as defences apply pressure to them in the finals.

"We always wanted to be a side that plays good (expansive) footy, that's when we play our best," Trbojevic said.

"The change of rules have probably made it a bit easier to do that. Once we started doing it we did it well so we kept at it.

"It's a footy we feel comfortable playing and we're not going to try and change too much."

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