Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rugby League: Simon Mannering - 'It's been a privilege'

Simon Mannering was congratulated by fans on his 250th game. Photo / Photosport
Simon Mannering was congratulated by fans on his 250th game. Photo / Photosport

Simon Mannering missed the post-game press conference after the 27-18 win over the Titans last night, a rare occasion in his long Warriors career that he hasn't been in the right place at the right time.

After standing in as captain - with Ryan Hoffman a late withdrawal due to illness - Mannering was allowed to celebrate with his team-mates, with Shaun Johnson fronting the cameras instead. But later Mannering cut a proud and emotional figure, admitting to some relief after a week in the limelight ahead of his 250th game.

"It's so humbling," said Mannering. "I just feel so privileged to have played for this club for so long. [But after] all the extra focus through the week, you don't want to let anyone down."

He didn't, even coming up with a couple of momentum swinging plays in last night's game, especially midway through the second half when he stopped a Titans player dead in his tracks to force a line drop-out.

Mannering had been "overwhelmed" by numerous messages from former team-mates leading up to the game, and had his match jersey presented to him by Francis Meli, whose couch he slept on in his first few weeks in Auckland more than a decade ago.

His late elevation to captaincy was a surprise - "it was probably something I didn't think I would do again" - but Mannering took it in his stride.

"He is still a very strong leader in our club but he just enjoys being able to do that behind closed doors," said Warriors coach Andrew McFadden. "He was happy to do the job [last night] but will be happy to hand it back to Ryan next time."

In a symbolic touch, the Warriors performance yesterday probably epitomised Mannering's career; there wasn't much flash and dash, but as a team, they were gritty and stayed in the contest, even when things weren't going to plan.

And though it could have been a distraction, Mannering's milestone was probably enough to get the Warriors across the line.

"It was in the back of our minds, especially our leaders," admitted Johnson.

"Thomas [Leuluai] spoke to me a couple of times about really getting this one done for him. It certainly drove me that little bit more."

- Herald on Sunday

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