They say Simon Mannering has a vintage Holden stashed away somewhere – one of the big, old Kingswood V8s you could quite easily drive unscathed through a brick wall.
Figures.

Mannering himself could do much the same thing. The restored Kingswood is Australian but quintessentially New Zealand as well; just as the NRL is indisputably Australian but now heavily populated by New Zealand-born players.

In the beginning they built Holdens to survive the viciously potholed and destructive roads of rural Australia, not to mention the odd reckoning with a roo. Mannering was designed with the same level of indestructibility in his DNA.

It's hard to express the reasons so many people admire Mannering but his similarity to that vintage Holden is a good place to start. Note: an old Holden.

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Professional sportspeople, like English Premier League footballers, for example are renowned for turning up to training in their pink Bentleys, sporting the latest haircut which looks like the barber knocked off early.

Mannering is a throwback. There's no discernible ego. No need for a pink Bentley. In fact, no need for any "look at me" stuff at all. When he was back home in Motueka, he'd cover up his name on his Warriors car. None of that fame stuff.

Simon Mannering announces his retirement from the Vodafone Warriors NRL team at the end of the 2018 season. Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, 18 July 2018. Photo / www.photosport.nz
Simon Mannering announces his retirement from the Vodafone Warriors NRL team at the end of the 2018 season. Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, 18 July 2018. Photo / www.photosport.nz

Ego is often needed in professional sport; it is part of the motivational drive – ego can lend extra urgency to the day-in, day-out grind of pro sport.

But in the days leading up to his 300th NRL match (all of them for the Warriors), you saw the measure of the man. He regarded the big mural painted in his honour at Mt Smart with a mix of pleasure, embarrassment and horror. Efforts by TV crews to use it as a backdrop failed when Mannering declined to be filmed there.

There was a large feature "Mannering 300" displayed on the ground. Warriors insiders say when Mannering saw it, he shook his head sadly and proceeded quickly in the opposite direction.

Self-effacing? You bet. He famously didn't tell his mum he was having his NRL debut in 2005. He didn't want a fuss.

(L-R) Reuben Wiki, Epalahame Lauaki and Simon Mannering of the New Zealand Warriors chat following a training session held at the Ellerslie Domain in 2007. Photo / Getty.
(L-R) Reuben Wiki, Epalahame Lauaki and Simon Mannering of the New Zealand Warriors chat following a training session held at the Ellerslie Domain in 2007. Photo / Getty.

Anyone who has played any of the oval ball codes knows there is a guy like Mannering in most teams. And that guy is quietly adored. He isn't the flashy runner or the gun goalkicker or the brute enforcer. He's the guy who does the work.

He's the one other players want to see on the team sheet first. They know he'll pull off thousands (literally) of tackles; missing one is as rare as a Mike Hosking column praising Jacinda Arden. They know he will shunt the ball up and he won't lose it in the tackle or push the silly pass. He is ultra-reliable, ultra-consistent, ultra-loyal and deadly determined.

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He has a Richie McCaw-Brodie Retallick-type engine but he's no one-trick pony. Look at recent Warriors matches; Mannering is often at first receiver, doing soft-hands stuff to work Shaun Johnson or Blake Green some space.

He and players like him are the heart, lungs and spine of any football team. He'd just never tell you that.

Those amazing stats published the other day tell some of the story. Before Friday night, he'd scored 63 tries, made 9610 tackles and 28,725 total running metres in his career, playing in 141 wins, 156 defeats and three draws.

What they don't tell you is how, relatively late in his career, the Warriors swapped him from second row to loose forward – meaning even more work.

In his last two seasons as a second rower, he made over 700 tackles. In 2015, as a back rower, that went up to 1084, then 1041 in 2016 and a (by his high standards) lighter season last year (986).

He made his way to 300 games faster than many of the other NRL triple centurions; many took 15 years or so compared to Mannering's 13-and-a-half… and that included six seasons when the Warriors miserably failed to make the playoffs.

Part of the reason was that he was rarely injured…that we knew of. His teammates know he has a frightening pain threshold, playing in pain and with pain, with injuries that sideline others. He didn't tell you then and won't tell you now either.

Perhaps the best-known came in 2007 when a bleary Mannering was hauled from his sick bed to play against the Dragons, broke his hand, but played on, earning man of the match.

Oddly, he hasn't scored a try this season – for the first time in his career if he doesn't score in the Warriors' finals campaign.

When he ascended to the captaincy, he had a hard act to follow in likeable and outgoing Aussie Steve Price. But he brought his own Mannering-isms to the captaincy.

He never shirked the job, even when the Warriors had sunk to some truly low levels. He always fronted up for interviews, always with an honest assessment – even when it was clear that this week's defeat was just like last week's, when there weren't really any definitive answers and all he could say was the same as the previous week.

He brought the same honesty to his own decision to retire, a typically frank self-assessment when many other stars on the downward curve have to be told by others.

Soon it will be time to enjoy more of that lovingly restored Kingswood. Which doesn't have his name on the door.