David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

Kiwis legend: Warriors should sack Manu Vatuvei and Ben Matulino

Manu Vatuvei. Photo / Getty
Manu Vatuvei. Photo / Getty

Former Kiwis captain Hugh McGahan believes Warriors management should sack senior players Manu Vatuvei and Ben Matulino if they are serious about improving the team's performances.

McGahan, who played 32 tests for New Zealand and captained the Kiwis on 17 occasions, believes the pair of have failed in recent seasons to live up their status as two of the Warriors best and highest paid players.

The former Sydney Roosters lock says newly appointed Warriors coach Stephen Kearney could make his presence felt by culling the veteran wing and front-rower and send a clear message to the rest of the playing group that substandard performances won't be tolerated under his watch.

"Irrespective of his standing, Manu Vatuvei has got to go," McGahan told Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch.

"Again, irrespective of his standing, Ben Matulino has got to go.

"They have underperformed. If you're going to make an impact I'd say that that's probably the two players that you would look at."

McGahan realises Vatuvei's lofty status within both the club and community and Matulino's reputation as the Warriors' premier front-rower would make any decision to cut them controversial.

However, he insists the form of the two Kiwis internationals have dropped and their performances this season failed to match their large salaries.

"Ben Matulino, three and four season ago was neck and neck with Jesse Bromwich as one of the top props running around," he said.

"I don't know where he's gone, what he's done.

"There's been some up and down (with) him starting on the bench, starting in the 13, (and) some indecision on where he sits within the club, but (he has) underperformed.

"And (cutting) Manu Vatuvei is going to cause an uproar because of his standing in the community.

"A player of his stature and his ability with the ball and (his) scoring ability, I'd say he'd be on fairly big money.

"He's a great marketing tool for them, which is where the majority of his money is coming from as well, but you're not seeing the return."

However, it seems unlikely Kearney would be quick to wield the axe on either Vatuvei or Matulino, after he named both players in the Kiwis initial train-on squad for the upcoming transtasman test against Australia and Four Nations, before resigning from his national post.

Kearney acknowledged the pair had struggled this season but was confident he could help them rediscover their best form.

"I know what Manu's capable of," said Kearney. "He probably hasn't played the way that he would have liked but I understand what he is capable of when he plays his best football.

"That's my responsibility as the coach, to get the individuals in a position so they can go out and play their best.

"The same goes for Ben Matulino. That's not an issue for me."

Warriors captain Ryan Hoffman believes Kearney will inspire the players to lift their game and had shown he is not afraid to make hard decisions.

"That's another trademark of Mooks' (Kearney)," said Hoffman.

"Getting the best out of his players and he's not frightened to make some tough calls with some players that aren't fitting in with what his teams are about and you've seen that with the Kiwis."

When asked about the possibility some senior Warriors could find their position under threat, Hoffman said such decisions are out of the player's hands.

"That's up to the board and hierarchy at the club and the coaches to decide what's going to be the best for us.

"If you're a Warriors player at the moment you definitely head into preseason getting ready to work hard."

- NZ Herald

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