NRL: Vatuvei won't be rattled by spills

By Steve Deane

Manu Vatuvei. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Manu Vatuvei. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Even by Manu Vatuvei's occasionally dicey standards, last Sunday's six-error, seven missed-tackle effort against Manly was a bit of a shocker.

The missed tackles included getting caught cold for a couple of Manly tries, while the errors involved a dropped pass with the tryline begging and a bunch of lost balls from hit-ups early in the Warriors' yardage sets.

It was the sort of display that not too long ago might well have precipitated a full-scale Manu meltdown. These days, however, the giant winger is a fairly robust sort of character. Inside he may be churning a little, but outwardly he grinned through a series of uncomfortable questions about his opening-week travails.

Turning things around in Monday night's round-two against the Eels, he said, wouldn't be hard. He has, of course, done precisely that a good few times before.

"My ball security is my No 1 thing," Vatuvei said. "My carries were a bit loose. I was trying to get a quick play-the-ball instead of securing the ball a bit better."

Former coach Ivan Cleary was always a staunch backer of Vatuvei. If anything, Brian McClennan appears even more strident.

"Over the years, I've watched with humour when people have knocked a champion player and watched those champion players come back and turn around and laugh," McClennan said. "I'm tipping Manu to do that."

That said, Vatuvei is not really the type to laugh in the face of his critics. He's not even prone to getting too upset with match officials who routinely rule against him when he appears to have been the victim of some none-too-subtle stripping.

"I'm not too sure," he said when asked if he felt he received a fair go from referees.

"From where I am, there was one that was knocked out, I know that. But I should have secured the ball better.

"The other one, it is hard for the ref to get a good look at it when they are all on top of me.

"An arm just came out of nowhere and stripped it.

"It's sometimes tough for the refs, but in my head it was a bad call. But I've just go to keep on playing and get my mind back into the game."

McClennan said his key kick-returner was clearly being targeted, but Vatuvei also needed to improve his ball security.

"He is being targeted because they need to get four in to tackle him in the first place.

"It is a big thing now, targeting the ball.

"On the other ones - the pass drops - he is a big man and they were face-ball passes to him.

"He probably needs to recognise those opportunities a bit earlier and get moving a bit quicker and he'll be fine," McClennan said.

- NZ Herald

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