Manly forward Jake Trbojevic.

Jake Trbojevic has come a long way from the days when he'd apologise to kids he'd just cut in half with a classic tackle for Mona Vale Raiders.

The Manly junior was renowned for his passion and compassion but when he takes the field these days there's not much room for sympathy for his rivals.

Nice guy off the field, demon on it, Jake says the will to win takes over as soon as he crosses the white line.

"When you're out there the competitiveness just takes over," Trbojevic tells NRL.com.

"Everyone is playing hard but some things do go wrong. You don't mean them but everyone is trying to win for their team.

"I love playing for Manly and I'll do anything to try and get the win for my team. I think all footballers are like that.

"There's no hard feelings and when I'm off the field, I like to be a good person because that's what you should do. But I definitely get pretty frustrated if we have a loss. I take it pretty hard and it takes me a while to get over it."

He shouldn't torment himself too much, as his tireless efforts kept Manly in plenty of games in 2018 and he finished the year as the NRL's top lock for tackling. The four players above him were hookers.

Trbojevic made 968 tackles in the 2018 Telstra Premiership season at an average of 42 per game. The copybook defender missed only 36 tackles all year – or 1.5 per game.

He also played mostly 80-minute games in the middle – primarily at lock – which multiplies that effectiveness.

Trbojevic doesn't think he'll wear himself out, or start to miss tackles through fatigue.

Jake and Tom Trbojevic celebrate the Blues win in Game Two in 2018.
Jake and Tom Trbojevic celebrate the Blues win in Game Two in 2018. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"I really enjoy my footy and like everyone, I just want to be out there for every minute possible," he said.

"I've been lucky enough the last couple of years that Baz [former coach Trent Barrett] wanted me out there for 80 so that was pretty cool. I train to be out there all game so I want to be out there."

There have been some fearsome forwards pulling on the maroon-and-white jersey at Manly over the years but Trbojevic has also been an admirer of someone further north – Queensland enforcer Trevor Gillmeister.

"Funny you mention 'The Axe'. I actually had him in a couple of Australian camps and I've had some very good guidance from him too," the Blues forward said.

"He was a great defender and I still like watching some of his hits.

"From doing tackle bag sessions with him, he still can hit I'm telling you."

Jake says much of the credit must go to the man coached all the Trbojevic brothers in junior football - Steve Wilson.

"Growing up I played at the Mona Vale Raiders and I had Steve from under 7s through to under 17s and he actually coached Tom as well," Jake said.

Jake Trbojevic works tirelessly in defence.
Jake Trbojevic works tirelessly in defence. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"He always taught me to go down low, right around the legs, so from a young age it become very natural to me to do that."

A much loved member of the Manly squad – he picked up the club's best and fairest award for a second time last season – Trbojevic is on track to play his 100th NRL game in round six against the Dragons.

"Touch wood everything goes right until round six. You grow up wanting to play one NRL game so to play 100 and play them all with my local club is pretty cool," he said.