NRL: Dream debut for Godinet

Pita Godinet. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Pita Godinet. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Pita Godinet tossed and turned when visualising his National Rugby League (NRL) debut but in reality it was the stuff dreams are made of.

The 23-year-old utility had an afternoon to remember at ANZ Stadium yesterday as the New Zealand Warriors thrashed South Sydney 48-16.

Listed as a late replacement for Lance Hohaia, Godinet relieved starting hooker Aaron Heremaia when the game was theoretically in the balance at 24-10 and, after assisting the Warriors to skip clear a second time, he had the final say with a last-minute score following a dart from dummy half.

Godinet, who has bided his time with the Auckland Vulcans in the NSW Cup since 2008, turned in an efficient shift and his try provided the perfect ending after Rhys Wesser had denied the rookie minutes earlier when pushing his grubber dead as he dived for the ball.

"I'm happy as, it's a dream come true really," said Godinet, who made his test debut for Samoa last October.

"I was just playing what's in front of me and went for it."

Godinet was told on Thursday he would be on the bench after Hohaia succumbed to a knee injury. After the initial elation, the anxiety levels spiked.

"It was OK when they told me, then the nerves started kicking in as the days went by," he said.

"I had a couple of sleepless nights, waking up early. The game was replaying over in my head and when I came into the changing room I was nervous as."

Heremaia took him under his wing before the match while defensive workhorse Micheal Luck was also a source of guidance once he entered the fray shortly after halftime to mark up against Kiwis hooker Issac Luke.

"All I was told was come up the middle, support and push up with the boys," he said.

Godinet followed instructions to the letter, the intensity of first grade was the real eye-opener.

"I was blowing after two minutes. I kept looking up at the clock thinking 'is it just two minutes'?"

Godinet, originally from the Sydenham club in Christchurch, had waited an eternity for his opportunity and never gave up hope coach Ivan Cleary might one day select him.

"I've been playing a patient game, working on what I needed to work on and hopefully I'd get an opportunity like this."

There are likely to be more coming his way, particularly next season.

Hohaia and Heremaia are both headed for the English Super League, leaving Godinet as potential back-up for Nathan Friend, the Warriors major 2012 acquisition from the Gold Coast Titans.

Cleary gave Godinet a pass mark after an encouraging performance.

"He's been put on there when Souths were having a bit of a run, they'd brought the score back to 14 points.

"I thought he was very tidy. He earned his way in. He's been slowly progressing the last few years in NSW Cup.

"He showed that if he keeps working hard there's a bit of a future for him."

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Warriors experience spectrum, wing Manu Vatuvei has relieved to record his first hattrick since terrorising Newcastle at Mt Smart Stadium last August.

Considered one of the competition's greatest offensive weapons Vautuvei has struggled since sustaining a knee injury during the opening round loss to Parramatta.

Limited to five tries in 10 previous appearances, a low strike rate by his high standards, the gold-toothed behemoth finally had cause to smile after making the most of a Joel Moon offload and two perfect cross kicks from James Maloney.

"I'm pretty happy with that," he said.

"I got some goods kicks from James and I was pretty lucky to get over (Nathan) Merritt. He's pretty good in the air too."

Vatuvei thought he was starting to recapture the form which earmarked him as one of the code's most lethal finishers.

"The knee injury took my confidence and it's taken a while to get my rhythm and form back. It's coming slowly, and hopefully at the right time."

- NZPA

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