Injured Manly centre Brad Parker has praised the toughness of club teammates Daly Cherry-Evans and Jake Trbojevic, and their ability to back up after Wednesday night’s State of Origin series decider.
As the Maroons have done on so many occasions in the history of this incredible series, they all played for each other against their more heavily favoured and star-studded opponents to prevail 22-12 in Brisbane.
There won’t be too much time for Queensland and Sea Eagles captain Cherry-Evans to celebrate the against-the-odds triumph following one of the greatest Origins of all time, after exhibiting a sublime short and long kicking game.
That is because his team will host the Knights at Brookvale Oval in Round 18 NRL action on Saturday night.
And Trbojevic was a workhorse, as he always is at club and representative level, coming up with 43 tackles to help the Blues repel wave after wave of Queensland attacking raids, while running for 97m.
He will need to move on quickly from the defeat, but Parker said he was confident both would come back and play well on club duty, as they’ve already done this season and in years gone by.
“It’s pretty ridiculous. Jake can make 50 tackles and back up three days later. I don’t know how they do it,” Parker told BettingSite.com.au.
“But they look after their bodies really well, and they’re very professional with what they do when they come back.
“It’s a mental thing trying to back up three days later, especially an Origin game.
“I can’t imagine it being easy. It’s unreal.”
While Parker has been impressed with Manly’s season so far – an 8-8 record has the team in eighth place – he also had special praise for young sensation Tolu Koula.
The 19-year-old centre has taken advantage of the time Parker has spent on the sidelines after sustaining a partially torn ACL ligament against South Sydney in Round 8.
He has gone on to cement the first-grade starting spot which Parker vacated because of his blinding speed, tough carries and hard-hitting defence.
“He is outstanding. I always knew he had a bit of talent about him and I knew he was a very skilful player,” Parker said.
“He’s tough as well – he knows how to defend and take the hard carries. He’s always eager to learn. He’s a very impressive player.”
Parker – who made his injury return for Blacktown Workers at NSW Cup level against the Dragons on Sunday before picking up a hand injury – said the Knights would not be easy opponents on Saturday night.
Newcastle – in 12th place with five wins this season – will be desperate for victory.
But the presence of Kalyn Ponga at fullback – one of the heroes for Queensland with 262m and a try on Wednesday night – will give the visiting side a big lift.
“It’s always a good challenge going up against the Knights, especially with the attacking players they’ve got,” Parker said.
Parker said the Sea Eagles have worked on being mentally stronger after their last game, an impressive 36-30 win over Melbourne.
But a stunning final five minutes saw Manly let in 18 points after leading 36-12.
“There are some areas for us to focus on. Just not lose focus. We probably thought we were home and looking for the showers a bit early,” Parker said.
“They’re doing really well. Everyone’s fit and everyone’s in a good mood. We’re looking to finish strong for the rest of the year.”
The Sea Eagles head into Saturday’s game against the Knights as $1.34 favourites at BetOnline, with Newcastle paying $3.29 to spring an upset on the road.