NRL: Vatuvei back with vengeance

By Steve Deane

Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei. Photo / Brett Phibbs

One of them was out to show people he still had some game, the other was happy just to get a game. Both turned out to be heroes for the Warriors against the Tigers in Sydney.

We're talking of course about Manu Vatuvei and Krisnan Inu.

Coming off one of his worst outings for the Warriors just six days earlier, Vatuvei produced a storming display. He carried the ball 13 times for 107m, broke a game-high eight tackles, defended soundly, and may have set an NRL record for the amount of bruises left on his opponents. Oh, and made just the one error.

Vatuvei's bounceback surprised some fans and pundits, but it was no more than his coach and teammates expected.

"I don't know what all the fuss was about," said coach Ivan Cleary when asked about keeping the faith with Vatuvei. "It was a no-brainer, really."

Having played alongside him for pretty much the whole of the giant winger's career, Lance Hohaia wasn't at all surprised by his performance.

"I didn't expect anything less," Hohaia said "He's a champion bloke and a pretty strong character. He wouldn't have been happy with his game last week, like anyone who hasn't played a great game. But I thought he bounced back really well."

Inu, who carved up the Tigers seemingly at will and scored the match-winning try, summed up his teammate nicely.

"That's Manu," Inu said. "He had one off-game but we knew he was going to lift for us this week and he killed it. That's just the way he is."

Vatuvei was equally complementary about Inu, a player who seems to enjoy the confidence of his teammates more than he does the club's coaching staff. "He's a game-breaker," said Vatuvei. "He does a lot of good things and I asked him before the game just to do some big, hard runs. He went out there and did it and I was really happy for him."

Frequently out of the side and, if an Australian Sunday newspaper report is accurate, recently on the market, Inu has stuck firmly to the line that those selected ahead of him this season have deserved their places in the side.

"It is always hard not to play, but full credit to the boys who play week-in week-out," he said. "They play hard and they deserve their positions. You can't argue when they are playing well.

"Berro [Shaun Berrigan] has been solid there all year and Lewie [Lewis Brown] has been playing well all year too. I dunno, it's just one of those decisions where [the coach] thought the players he picked were the best for the team. You can't argue."

Maybe he can't. But following Friday night's heroics he shouldn't have to. It's hard to imagine how Inu could be left out again this season, regardless of whether Berrigan returns to fitness.

While Inu's revival appears self-created, Vatuvei credited a pep talk from Andrew Johns with helping him get his head in the right place. "He told me I needed to get my smile back and you know what, I went out there and did that," Vatuvei said. "I relaxed and enjoyed the game.

"I knew what I had to do. I knew I needed to concentrate on the things I do well in the game. I'm talking about things like my carries and stuff like that. My catching of the high ball, I thought, would come and I knew I just had to keep trying and keep working hard.

"It was pretty tough last week. I wanted to put it behind me and move on. I went out there and took all my frustration and anger out on the Tigers and that showed with my runs."

- NZ Herald

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