NRL: Vatuvei still on Warriors' wishlist

By Michael Brown

Giant winger is crowd favourite and has team's respect.

Manu Vatuvei made his debut for the Warriors in 2004. Photo / Greg Bowker
Manu Vatuvei made his debut for the Warriors in 2004. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Warriors are on the verge of re-signing Manu Vatuvei, raising the possibility that the giant winger will be a one-club player.

The 27-year-old has had a wretched run with injuries this season and will miss tonight's game against the Storm in Melbourne with a sternum injury but, despite competition from a handful of youngsters, is seen as an integral member of the squad.

He is the club's record try-scorer with 104 in 155 games and has been hugely popular among fans since his debut in 2004, which is another attractive element for the Warriors.

He is off contract at the end of the season and, given his age, Vatuvei had been testing the market to see what else was out there. He is said to have attracted interest from other NRL clubs as well as rugby outfits in Japan, England and France but is ready to commit to the Warriors and a new deal is expected to be confirmed in the next few days.

"We would love to keep him at the club," Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said.

"[Coach] Matt Elliott has a huge amount of respect for him and he's expressed a desire for him to stay at the club and we are working through that with his agent.

"He's got a tremendous amount of respect. He's in his testimonial year at the club. He's still relatively young and got plenty of football ahead of him and he's a real role model for players coming through the club system.

"He's unique in his image and his support. When he's fit, on the field and at his best, there are few players as good as him in the NRL."

Fitness has sometimes been an issue and he's been laid low by multiple knee injuries over the years.

He picked up ankle and knee injuries in the first 20 minutes of the opening game of the season against the Eels and then injured his sternum in the agonising defeat to Canberra.

He picked up the injury early in the match but played on in discomfort and still scored two tries and was named by his teammates as their player of the match.

His form has been patchy at times and last season he coughed up 38 errors - the third most in the NRL - on top of continued issues on defence and he was left out of the Kiwis for their end-of-year test with Australia.

Vatuvei admitted earlier this month that a decision on his future was a difficult one.

"It will be the hardest decision of my career," he told the Herald on Sunday. "Getting to my age, it makes it even harder. I need to make sure I have the right deal for me and my family. Hopefully I can stay at the club but I have to look at all the options."

It won't have escaped his attention the club is developing a handful of useful options on the wing with the likes of Glen Fisiiahi, Bill Tupou and Ngani Laumape. Fisiiahi and Tupou have been named to play on the wings tonight against Melbourne, with Laumape playing in his preferred position at centre, but the possible return of Jerome Ropati to the NRL could see a reshuffle.

- APNZ

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