When he finally finishes with football, Simon Mannering had always planned to become a builder. But a few months ago it dawned on him that it might not be possible, as his body -- seemingly held together by strapping tape, string and sheer will power -- might not handle such a physical job.
"I've always been interested in the construction industry, so something in that was the plan," said Mannering. "I had hopes of being a tradie and a builder but after doing a couple of DIY jobs recently I've realised my body is not what it used to be. I don't know if my body will be up to it."
It's no wonder. No other player has given more to the Warriors -- physically, mentally and emotionally -- over such a long period than Simon Alexander Mannering.
Today against the Dragons he will move ahead of Stacey Jones, with his record 262nd NRL match for the club. It's a staggering number, but there are others that sum up his contribution even better.
Mannering, 30, has carried the ball into collisions almost 3000 times, making more than 23,000 hard-won metres. In the NRL, which often resembles a land of the giants, Mannering is one of the smaller forwards on the field, but he's thrown himself into nearly 8000 tackles, and across 13 seasons averages less than three missed tackles every two games.
But the grand daddy of all these statistics, which epitomises Mannering more than any other, is that he has averaged 76 minutes per match across his career and played in more than 90 per cent of possible Warriors games during that time.
"They don't make guys like Simon any more," said long time former teammate Micheal Luck. "He probably belongs in another era, in terms of his toughness."
Luck, who played with Mannering for seven seasons, was always amazed by his younger teammate's courage.
"He gives you confidence in what you can do," said Luck. "Before games I used to get nervous. Not about playing the game -- I could do my job -- but because I knew I was going to get physically hurt out there. But then I would look across at this kid, who was five or six years younger and not a big bloke at all, and he was ready to throw himself into all the collisions. It gave you strength."
The current generation echo those thoughts, with teammate Charlie Gubb comparing his vice-captain to the Universal Soldier.
"I've never met someone as resilient as Simon," said Gubb. "I asked him the other day 'Have you ever had a cork on your arm?' He was like, 'yes, I've got one now'. But you would never know. He never complains or looks for sympathy. Being beside him in the team you know how much stuff can hurt but he just carries on, like the Universal Soldier."
Mannering played with a broken hand for the first four games of last season, and has taken the field with illnesses, knocks and strains that would flatten most others.
"I don't think it is anything special in that sense," said Mannering. "It's just my job. Physically you go up and down throughout the season. Bar the first game, you probably don't feel 100 per cent for any game but that's the case for almost any player. That's just the way it is."
Former teammate Nathan Fien remains amazed by Mannering achievements -- "he's come a long way from a skinny white kid driving a rusty Holden" -- but saw something special from the beginning.
"It was pretty obvious from his first game," said Fien. "He came on against the Broncos and was marking Justin Hodges, one of the best centres in the world. But this 18-year-old kid fended him off and then put Manu [Vatuvei] in for a try."
Mannering will never forget that debut, almost 12 years ago.
"I was very nervous and if I am being honest I didn't really want to go on the field," he said. "We were going really well and I didn't want to mess that up. But Toops [Clinton Toopi] got an injury so I had to go on. It was really something special to run on to that field ... I had to pinch myself. It wasn't something I expected I would do in my lifetime."
Although seen as a workhorse these days -- he has become a tackling machine in the last few years, partly to compensate for the chaos around him -- his legacy is much broader. As a youngster he was a strong centre with a turn of pace -- who could forget his epic pursuit of Mark Gasnier in the Kiwis-Kangaroos clash at Mt Smart in 2006 -- and only Vatuvei, Jones and Frances Meli have topped his 58 tries for the club. He has always had a decent offload and an eye for a gap, although time, and tackles, have wearied him.
Mannering is most proud of the period during 2007-11, the most sustained success in the club's history.
"We were very consistent and got through a lot of tight battles," said Mannering. "We backed our defence, had good systems in place with Ivan [Cleary] and the trainers and a consistent group of players. It was a great time."
Hopefully there is another chapter, as it is nothing less than Mannering deserves. He's proud of this record, although maintains Jones will always be the greatest Warrior, regardless of the numbers. Mannering should also become the first to play 300 games for the Auckland club, but admits he would swap all the milestones for a trophy or two.
His feat today will be overshadowed by Kieran Foran's comeback -- but that probably suits him fine.
Mannering has no special celebrations planned to mark the auspicious occasion, simply saying, "It would be nice to win; if we can get the result it would do me."
The tool belt may be out of the question in the future, but Mannering will spent another 80 minutes today building his legacy.
Nailing it: Mannering by the numbers
23,223 metres won