Tom Trbojevic in action for Australia.
Tom Trbojevic in action for Australia.

RLWC: The two men turning Turbo into Mal’s next No.1

AS FAR as football mentors go, Tom Trbojevic has struck gold. He's been gifted the cream of the crop.

The aspiring Australian fullback has fallen into the path of two of the game's greatest No. 1s.

And they're playing huge roles in turning young Turbo into the next star Kangaroos custodian.

Trbojevic credits former Manly teammate Brett Stewart as possibly the biggest influence on his fledgling rugby league career to date.

And now he's taking his game to new heights thanks to help from the man most believe is the best ever fullback, Billy Slater.

Slater has taken the 21-year-old Manly jet under his wing during the World Cup, with an aim to strengthening the famed No.1 green and gold jumper long-term.

Slater will be around in 2018 but Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga will want to have a replacement - or two - ready to fill the void once the 34-year-old hangs up the boots.

Trbojevic will be in the national side somewhere for a decade to come, if all goes to plan. What's less clear is exactly where he slots into the team.

He can play on the wing or in the centres. But the jumper he really wants is Billy's.

"You've got to be up for playing anywhere in this team. If Mal wants me to play fullback, wing, wherever, I'm happy to do that," Trbojevic told

"You definitely want to emulate players like Billy Slater so that's a goal of mine."

Tom Trbojevic of Australia is tackled by the USA.
Tom Trbojevic of Australia is tackled by the USA.

While he's willing to take on whatever role Meninga asks of him, Trbojevic sees himself as a fullback.

It's the position he will occupy for Manly and it's the job he wants to take on for Australia.

Standing in his way is the likes of James Tedesco and Val Holmes. Together, they're the game's brightest young custodians.

And Slater - the Melbourne champion and Kangaroos fan favourite - will no doubt be happy to help where he can in order to achieve sustained success down the track.

Trbojevic has been taking the chance to lean on 27-Test veteran while in camp for the Cup.

And it'as one simple tip that Trbojevic has latched on to to help grow his own game.

"What he's done in this game is second to none. He's done so much and he's probably the best fullback to play this game," Trbojevic said.

"I try to learn as much as I can off him and he's been really good.

"The thing I take the most (from him) is he's a big talker.

"You hear him every second at training and you hear him out there during the game.

"That's one thing I need to work on in my game. You see him and you understand why he's so good."

Trbojevic is playing the sponge in Kangaroos camp as he uses the six-week tournament to learn as much as he can from the game's greatest.

But he has another mentor who he can chat to any time he needs some advice.

His one-time teammate Stewart is only a text message or a phone call away.

The pair still keep up, even though Stewart has left Manly and moved down to Melbourne since retiring from the game.

In fact so close are the pair, Trbojevic took the chance to catch up with Stewart when the Kangaroos were camped in Melbourne for the World Cup opener.

Stewart hosted some of the Australian players for dinner at his restaurant at Turbo's request.

"He hasn't been (at Manly) too much this year ... but in my time with him, he's another great fullback to play this game, and I owe a lot of what I do to him," Trbojevic said.

"Being at Manly and playing with him, training with him, he definitely helped me a lot.

"The way he can turn up when the time is right ... he's done everything in this game and I was privileged to play alongside him and be at the same club as him."

Trbojevic made his Kangaroos debut on the right wing as Australia beat France in Canberra last week.

But for the final 10 minutes of the game he slotted into the fullback role to replace Slater, who was benched.

This week he'll line up at centre to take on Lebanon in Sydney on Sunday.

But at just 21 years of age, he has plenty of time to cement a spot in the national team.