NRL: Vatuvei chases the beautiful game

By Michael Brown

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

Warriors coach Matt Elliott wants to see less of The Beast in Manu Vatuvei as he attempts to add more finesse to the giant winger's game.

It was announced today Vatuvei had re-signed with the club until the end of 2015, raising the possibility he will see out his playing days at Mt Smart Stadium.

The 27-year-old, who is into his 10th season with the Warriors, knocked back approaches from rival NRL outfits and also entertained a switch of codes to play rugby union in Japan or Europe.

He's come under pressure with a bevy of useful alternatives on the wing but remains one of the most popular players at the club and his commercial value is an important asset to the club.

"This is where I belong,'' Vatuvei said. ``It was quite an easy decision to stay at the club. My family were really happy and that was the No 1 thing for me.

"There were other options and I just wanted to have a look around but I don't think I would have gone to another NRL club.

I feel comfortable at the Warriors and it wouldn't have worked for me playing in other colours.

"There were a few temptations there [to play rugby] but there were some other players who suited the game more than me. I suit league better. I think I made the right choice staying and I'm happy the club wanted me to stay.''

Elliott now wants to see Vatuvei develop him game. Vatuvei quickly earned the nickname The Beast when he arrived at Mt Smart Stadium as a teenager because of comparisons with former Kiwis centre Kevin Iro, also known by the same moniker. Together with his size - he stands 189cm and weighs 112kg - it wasn't difficult to work out how he played.

"I know people talk about The Beast and all that sort of stuff but I think we have to get that out of our mentality,'' Elliott said. ``Too often we give the ball to Manu on play two and go, `run into those 50 people'. I have had a gutsful of it, to be honest. He's got far more to offer than that.

"He needs to know that. His teammates do, the club does and so do the fans. He's better than that. He has a whole heap to offer and he's still got his speed. He will get it back. He just has to get over this little knee condition he's got at the moment.''

Injuries have been an issue for Vatuvei over the past couple of seasons and his knee is often packed with ice after games and training.

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 narrow defeat to Canberra, meaning he's played in only four of the Warriors' eight games.

His form has been patchy at times, and it has cost him his place in the Kiwis, but he remains one of the most potent finishers in the game and has scored 105 tries in 156 NRL matches. He's scored three so far this season, including one and a try assist in last weekend's 25-24 win over the Titans, and will hope that form continues against the Bulldogs in Wellington.

Vatuvei will have a different partner on the left edge on Saturday, with Jerome Ropati ruled out with a hamstring injury. Ben Henry could switch to the left with Konrad Hurrell and Carlos Tuimavave vying to play right centre.

- APNZ

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