Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Vatuvei to join list of try-scoring legends

Warriors wing one try away from 150 and could eventually reach the top five on the list of all-time NRL try-scorers.
Manu Vatuvei is set to become the first Kiwi to score 150 NRL tries. Picture / Getty Images
Manu Vatuvei is set to become the first Kiwi to score 150 NRL tries. Picture / Getty Images

Manu Vatuvei doesn't play for statistics. Unlike some in the NRL, he's not obsessed with numbers and remains the ultimate team man.

But Vatuvei is on the cusp of a remarkable milestone. Tomorrow, he could become the first New Zealander to reach 150 tries in the NRL.

He is currently on 149 and to put his impending achievement in perspective, in more than a century of first grade league, only 10 other players have achieved the mark, including just eight in the modern era.

They include league legends such as Ken Irvine, Steve Menzies, Billy Slater, Andrew Ettingshausen and Terry Lamb. Soon - probably very soon - a local product, born and bred in Otara, will join that list.

"It will be a massive achievement but it's more for when I finish my career and look back on things," said Vatuvei, who had to be reminded he was in line for the milestone.

"At the moment, I just want to do well for the team and try to bring a premiership here.

"But [the record] is the kind of thing I'll be able to show to my kids and it's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life. I used to look up to guys like Francis Meli and Henry [Fa'afili], used to watch them score tries and celebrate. Hopefully I can also motivate someone here to get to that record one day."

His prolific strike rate (0.69) adds to his lustre. In the modern era, only Brett Stewart (0.70) has a better tries-per-game ratio and Vatuvei is well ahead of other try kings such as Menzies (0.50), Lamb (0.47), Nathan Merritt (0.65) and Hazem El-Masri (0.50).

But his feats are often overlooked. Vatuvei has a decent profile but there is no doubt if he was from Sydney or Brisbane, and playing for the likes of the Roosters, Bulldogs or Broncos, he would be regarded as a superstar of the game. 'The Beast' has often played in struggling Warriors sides - for long periods, he was one of the team's few scoring options - and has featured in only four finals series across 12 seasons. But he has kept on, kept performing, and could finish his career among the top five NRL try-scorers of all time.

Vatuvei remains one of the hardest players to tackle in the competition and often scores tries few others could.

He is far from the perfect player, especially on defence, but has stayed at the top for more than a decade and is the only player in league history to score 10 or more tries in 10 consecutive seasons.

And look at the names he has passed on the way up the try scoring ladder, out-scoring league royalty such as Steve Renouf, Nigel Vagana, Anthony Minichiello, Phil Blake, Matt Bowen and Brett Mullins.

Vatuvei is also much more than a finisher and for most of his time at Mt Smart, he has been like a sixth forward at the club. Since 2005, he has averaged more than 115 running metres per game, often creating invaluable momentum with tough charges out of his own half. And those statistics, while impressive, don't take into account the amount of physical pain and suffering Vatuvei has put himself through for the cause.

He has been remarkably durable - averaging 19 games a year for the past decade - but injuries are starting to catch up with the 30-year-old. Vatuvei hasn't managed more than two successive games this season and, even if ever present the rest of this year, will have played his lowest number of matches since 2005.

But he remains a unique weapon, and whatever his future holds, has a list of achievements that might never be matched by a player from this country.

"He was the first guy to get to 10 tries in 10 consecutive seasons and now he is one away from 150 tries," said Warriors coach Andrew McFadden. "They are massive feats by once-in-a-lifetime players. It's something we might not see again for a while and we are all proud to be part of it."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 30 Apr 2017 10:44:03 Processing Time: 680ms