NRL: Steadying presence on field

By Michael Brown

Simon Mannering has captained the side since taking over from Steve Price in 2010. Photo / Getty Images
Simon Mannering has captained the side since taking over from Steve Price in 2010. Photo / Getty Images

In the same way teams are judged on results, captains are also largely evaluated on a side's level of success.

On that front, Simon Mannering has had a couple of pretty ordinary years as the Warriors have battled to make an impression but, in truth, he has been one of the most consistent features of a terribly inconsistent outfit.

He had some issues with his handling at the start of the year and missed a couple of tackles you might expect him to make but the 27-year-old will probably go on to be named the Warriors' Player of the Year for a record third time (he won in 2008 and 2011).

He has always brought the right attitude when teammates have lacked intensity and if someone is making a try-saving tackle, it's invariably Mannering. He's even added more of an attacking thrust in 2013 and notched 19 offloads.

Even though Mannering doubles as Kiwis captain he hasn't convinced everyone he's captaincy material and his position came under scrutiny as the Warriors lurched from one defeat to the next.

It's been that way since he was appointed as a 23-year-old to take over from the immensely popular Steve Price for the 2010 season.

It might not look like it at times, but Mannering enjoys captaincy.

"It's a huge honour," he said, "and you have to take the good with the bad. It's the same as a football player. It's a pretty cool way to make a living but it's not easy, especially when things aren't going well. It's bloody tough. But that's what makes the good times a lot better. I love the role and I'm very proud to do it for this club and group of people.

"You're going to cop the brunt of it [as captain] depending on how the team goes and that's how it is. [Criticism] is going to be there and there's no point listening to it or reading about it. If it ever meant I shouldn't be captain and it was best for the team, that's no skin off my nose. I just want what's best for the team."

The impact a captain makes in league is negligible and, even though he can be fingered for a poor run of results, Mannering takes little credit for the Warriors' midseason turnaround when they won seven from eight.

"That's not down to me or any other individual," he said. "It's down to the group working a lot better and working harder on the field for each other. It has to be a buy-in from the whole group."

It will have to be the case tomorrow night when the Warriors host the Raiders in a high-stakes game at Mt Smart Stadium. Both sides are struggling to make the top eight because of their inferior points differential but one team will definitely be out of the equation tomorrow.

"It's exciting," Mannering said. "The more important games are the most enjoyable. I don't think we need to try to invent anything new this week. It's a case of taking what we did last week [against the Titans] and doing it better."

The Warriors team to play Canberra at Mt Smart tomorrow, kickoff 5pm, is: Kevin Locke, Jerome Ropati, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Suaia Matagi, Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering (c), Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Feleti Mateo, Dominique Peyroux, Ngani Laumape (one to be omitted).

Canberra: Reece Robinson, Bill Tupou, Jarrod Croker, Joel Thompson, Sami Sauiluma, Terry Campese (c), Anthony Milford, David Shillington, Josh McCrone, Brett White, Josh Papalii, Joel Edwards, Paul Vaughan. Interchange: Glen Buttriss, Jake Foster, Dane Tilse, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Matt McIlwrick (one to be omitted).

- APNZ

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