League: Mannering joining Warrior greats

By Steve Deane

Simon Mannering says he has enjoyed every moment of his time leading the Warriors. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Simon Mannering says he has enjoyed every moment of his time leading the Warriors. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Captain's stature grows as he heads towards 150 matches and stands comparison with the best.


Discussions about the identity of the greatest Warrior tend to be rather brief affairs. Once the words Stacey and Jones have been uttered, there isn't a need for too many more.

That could change. Tonight Simon Mannering plays his 150th match for the club, and his 50th as captain. Those milestones might not be mind-bending, but Mannering is bearing down on some significant marks. Later this season he should overhaul Wairangi Koopu's 159 matches to become the club's fifth-most capped player. If he stays healthy, he could also pass Awen Guttenbeil (170 matches) this year. Next season Lance Hohaia (185) and Logan Swann (195) hover into view. That would leave only Jones above him, the great halfback who stands alone on 261 appearances. All up, it would take Mannering the best part of five injury-free seasons to catch Jones. That may be a huge ask, but at just 25 and having recently signed a three-year contract extension, Mannering appears to have a fair chance of pulling it off.

While he may lack Jones' remarkable skill, guile and game-breaking ability, Mannering's workrate, courage and durability are peerless. A player's player and borderline lovechild of his coaches, Mannering will always be rated higher by those inside a club than the majority of a public that doesn't always seem to appreciate his value.

Former coach Ivan Cleary was in no doubt about that value, making the huge call to replace the towering figure of Steve Price with Mannering, then 23, as captain.

With Price succumbing to career-ending complications from heel surgery and Mannering leading a revival that began with a return to the finals in 2010 followed by last year's grand final run, history now looks kindly upon that decision. At the time, however, it appeared anything but a no-brainer.

There were concerns about how a depowered and disappointed Price might react, while many assumed vice-captain Micheal Luck to be the natural successor.

"I guess that was more from the outside in," Mannering said when asked to reflect on that time. "Within these walls it was never an issue. I was fine within myself - the club had taken a decision and I was proud to be taking the role. All I wanted to do was play the best I could and do as good a job as I could for the team. I've enjoyed every moment of it, good times and bad."

There has been a fair bit of both during his 50-game reign. The resurgent 2010 campaign ended in crushing disappointment when the club were eliminated in the opening round of the finals, while last year's rollercoaster ride included starting the season with three straight losses and a mid-season four-match losing streak that was capped by Cleary announcing his departure to Penrith.

"It hasn't been smooth sailing, you go through tough times. People question your ability, not just as a captain but a player. You expect that and how you bounce back is what really counts."

He hasn't altered his laid back style much but Mannering certainly seems more comfortable in the job these days. He knows he'll never be a public figurehead in the mould of Price. "I'm not going to try to be anyone I am not. I'm hoping I've improved over time. I guess starting fairly young you learn along the way. But everyone here carries their own weight. It's not like it's a burden."

As for bringing up 150 matches, Mannering says: "I'm sure in the future there will be a whole lot and you won't even remember me."

That seems unlikely.

- NZ Herald

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