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Age restriction all that kept NRL star Tom Trbojevic from AFL contract

Just days back from a lengthy stint on the sidelines with a serious hamstring injury, Tom Trbojevic tore Queensland apart in a wet State of Origin in Perth.

On the back of a 341m, nine tackle bust effort against St George just a week earlier in his first game back, the man dubbed Tommy Turbo ran in three tries at Optus Stadium delighting the NSW faithful.

Tom Trbojevic has previously credited his AFL training with helping his aerial ability.Tom Trbojevic has previously credited his AFL training with helping his aerial ability.
Camera IconTom Trbojevic has previously credited his AFL training with helping his aerial ability.Picture: AAP

Perth fans had a front row seat to watch the player set to become the NRL’s next million dollar man.

And now it’s been revealed just how close Trbojevic came to playing AFL after he starred in Sydney’s talent academy as a youngster.

An age restriction rule was all that stood between Trbojevic and an AFL contract – with NRL side the Manly Sea Eagles snapping the talented youngster up at the age of 16.

Under current AFL rules, clubs can’t sign talent from the academy until the year they turn 18.

He’s been described by NSW coach Brad Fittler as a “superstar” and is set for a massive pay day when both he and brother Jake come off contract at the end of next season.

A young Tommy Turbo turning out for Mona Vale.A young Tommy Turbo turning out for Mona Vale.
Camera IconA young Tommy Turbo turning out for Mona Vale.Picture: Instagram

Already touted as million dollar men Manly face a tough fight to keep the brothers, with plenty of NRL clubs circling ahead of the November 1 clearance date when the stars can be approached.

But what could have been for Trbojevic in the AFL?

According to reports, only six players earned more than $1 million in 2018 – Richmond’s Dustin Martin, Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe, Sydney’s Lance Franklin, GWS’ Jeremy Cameron, Bulldog Tom Boyd and former Gold Coast star Tom Lynch.

It’s believed Eagles star defender Jeremy McGovern has since joined that prestigious group.

At just 22, Trbojevic has a lot of football ahead of him. Whether or not he could have earned $1 million at such an early age in the AFL remains to be seen.

Speaking to The West after his Origin heroics, Tommy Turbo said he was just grateful coach Fittler gave him the nod.

“Freddy gave me licence to move around,” he said.

“It wasn’t a plan initially (to play through the middle) but (teammate Tedesco) was finding a lot of space so I went with him.”

Trbojevic even admitted to being “bored” with “not as much running” in the centres, so he headed in-field to lend a hand.

“He told me Fergo (Blake Ferguson) was getting all the hit-ups, so he had to go and do something, is what he told me,’’ Fittler said.

“He knows the game very well. He knows he had a job to be our right centre and he’s one of those blokes that knows when you’re on top, he takes advantage of it.”

No doubt those AFL talent scouts in NSW will be kicking themselves.

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