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Flashback 2004: A 17-year-old Simon Mannering, part of Wellington's boom under-18 team that year, playing for the Junior Kiwis against England Under-18. Photo: Photosport.

Simon Mannering could be described as Napier-born, Nelson-raised and Auckland-made as he has made his way throught the ranks to become captain of both club and country.

But, as he prepares to lead the Vodafone Warriors into 'The Capital Clash' at Westpac Stadium tonight (7.35 kick-off), the critical piece in his rugby league jigsaw puzzle was arguably the time he spent in Wellington with a group of multi-talented teenaged players.

Indeed Mannering takes the field tonight as a survivor from the night NRL football was last played in Wellington in 2004, as does his team-mate Manu Vatuvei. Not from the big NRL clash between the Vodafone Warriors and the Bulldogs but from the curtain-raiser which pitted an outstanding Wellington Under-18 side (including Mannering) against Auckland (including Vatuvei, then sporting a huge mop of golden hair

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