Operation Turbo, Master Foz and the Mad Professor



Heading into the 2021 NRL season, there are three pressing questions that have had Manly fans waking in a cold sweat during the middle of the night.

Will the most talked about hamstrings in the rugby league world – the ones attached to Tom Trbojevic's pins – hold up for an entire season?

Can returning hero Kieran Foran get anywhere near back to his premiership-winning best six years and three clubs after leaving the Northern Beaches?

And has the Mad Professor – aka coach Des Hasler – still got what it takes to become the most successful coach in Manly's 75-year history?

The Sea Eagles have explored every method outside of sacrificing a chicken and smoking the entrails in a bid to get Tommy Turbo's hamstrings in tip top condition.

Fans tightly clutch rosary beads – or, for non-religious types, the nearest alcoholic beverage – each time the brilliant No.1 finds himself in open space or, ahem, sprinting down Manly Corso.

It hasn't worked.

That left hammy has gone 'ping' three times in 16 months, and the right one 'went' on him late last month in the bathroom, leading Manly's medical staff to scour the globe for answers from specialists in the treatment of recurring hamstring injuries.   

We've got some good news for the Sea Eagles faithful – not to mention the local chicken population. 

Brien Seeney is a respected physiotherapist and injury analyst, specialising in NRL players.

He tells Peninsula Living, the Sea Eagles did everything right with Operation Turbo after his third tear, and the latest setback should not be career threatening.       

"Manly have approached Trbojevic’s rehab conservatively, not pushing him to return early at any stage which helps keeps his risk of re-injury as low as possible," Seeney says. 

"There’s no avoiding the fact he will still be at some increased risk; sufferers of hamstring strains generally range from approximately 10-30 per cent risk of re-injury. 

"You wouldn't have found a more confident guy than me about Tom's prospects heading into the season, but obviously this latest injury is a big hit.

"However, hammies are something that you can get on top of with good rehab and I don't expect Tommy to be out for an extended period.

"This latest one is just plain bad luck."

Okay, so fingers crossed on all that.

Foran, meanwhile, has been to hell and back since walking out on the Sea Eagles to join Parramatta in 2015.

The Kiwi international had forgettable stints at the Eels, Warriors and finally the Bulldogs as he battled injury and off-field issues.

It's fair to say the more pragmatic or pessimistic among us aren't buying into the romance of his return to Brookvale.

But Manly's greatest five-eighth is one of the true believers.

Cliffy Lyons is excited about what a rebooted Foran could bring to the Sea Eagles.

"We need to get quality time out of him. If we can get 20 games out of Kieran, then you can call it a success," Lyons declares.

"He's not going to be the same player he was when he was here before, but Des will know how to get the best out of him and he will know how to get the best out of himself.

"He can still guide a team around the park and do a really good job for the team.

"I can see him being a real asset, particularly if they use him in a bench role."

Four men – Ron Willey, Frank Stanton, Bob Fulton and Hasler – have won two premierships each at Manly.

Hasler can stand alone at the top if he's able to deliver the Sea Eagles another title before his time is up.

Some have suggested time expired last season as the club imploded on the back of several heavy losses to slide out of the top eight.

Had Des lost his mojo?

Northern beaches-based Daily Telegraph rugby league reporter Dean ‘Bulldog’ Ritchie knows Hasler better than most, speaking to him almost daily during the season.

"You write someone like Des Hasler off at your peril," he warns.

"Aside from maybe Bozo (Fulton), I don't think I've met a more driven or meticulous coach.

"He's openly admitted some of those performances last year weren't acceptable and he won’t cop a repeat in 2021. 

"From the minute last season finished, he would have been working 24/7 to get Manly back to where they feel they belong."

The planned revival includes the arrival of Foran along with Jason Saab from the Dragons and Wests Tigers forward Josh Aloiai.

Reliable Andrew Davey is a handy pick-up from the Eels, with athletic outside back Christian Tuipulotu (Roosters) completing the major off-season gains.

Prop Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors) heads the list of exits and is a huge loss, while Joel Thompson's work-rate will be missed following his move to Super League club St Helens.

But Daly Cherry-Evans is still there, as is Jake and Tom Trbojevic, Marty Taupau, Curtis Sironen and Dylan Walker.

Throw in exciting youngsters Josh Schuster, Sean Keppie, Morgan Harper and Ben Trbojevic and you have all the ingredients for a successful year.

Hopefully a season that will have Manly fans sleeping a lot sounder.

Adam Lucius, Contributor, Peninsula Living Magazine

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