The Manu Vatuvei era at the Warriors is over. The giant winger, plagued this season by injuries, will end his playing days in the northern England town of Salford.
His status at Mt Smart was acknowledged last night with the ground renamed Manu Vatuvei Stadium for the game against Penrith.
For a shy Otara teenager, Vatuvei was an overachiever in his chosen sport, a favourite they called "The Beast."
He leaves with two records that may stand for some time. He scored 152 tries for the Warriors, and 22 for the Kiwis. With ball in hand he was a fearsome sight.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
His size and strength made him a threat on any paddock, and he remains the only player in NRL history to have scored at least 10 tries in 10 consecutive seasons.
He played 226 games for the Warriors after he joined the Auckland club as a 16-year-old in 2002. He made the first grade two years later. He has been hardly sighted this season, succumbing to knee and calf injuries.
Sooner or later his body was bound to show signs of the wear and tear which was the price he paid for carting the ball out of trouble.
As a player he endured adulation and animosity. Critics took him apart when he fumbled the ball, and praised him when he turned games with his powerful surges. Vatuvai was big enough to apologise to Warriors' fans for his transgression last year when, with a group of players, he had a night out on pills and energy drinks.
The 31-year-old called the fallout the hardest time of his career. He has done enough to be forgiven and his deeds speak for themselves. The big bloke with the golden-toothed grin will be missed at Manukau, and all the other league arenas.