Kiwi and Vodafone Warriors try-scoring record holder Manu Vatuvei has followed up his inaugural NRL Nines selection last week by today being named in the NRL All Stars team for the third time in his career.
The 28-year-old has been selected by All Stars coach Wayne Bennett on the back of his heroics for the Kiwis in their pulsating Four Nations triumph over the Kangaroos at Westpac Stadium in Wellington last November.
The match against the Johnathan Thurston-captain Indigenous All Stars will be played at Cbus Super Stadium in Robina on Friday, February 14.
Vatuvei is set to line up alongside an array of stars including fellow Four Nations winners Kieran Foran, Jason Taumalolo and Jesse Bromwich plus former Kiwi team-mates Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Antonio Winterstein and Jeremy Smith.
“It’s really humbling to be in the All Stars again,” said Vatuvei today.
“I’m excited about the chance of working with Wayne and also playing alongside so many great players.
“It was a massive honour and an awesome experience the last two times I made the team and I’m really looking forward to being part of it again.”
Vatuvei’s two-try haul in the Four Nations final gave him outright ownership of the Kiwi Test try-scoring record, taking his total to 20 in 27 internationals, one clear of Nigel Vagana who scored his 19 tries in 38 Tests. He is easily the most prolific try-scorer in the Vodafone Warriors’ history with 135 tries in 194 games; of players lining up for the 2015 NRL season, only Billy Slater and Brett Stewart have scored more tries than Vatuvei.
Vatuvei made the inaugural NRL All Stars team in 2010 and was the club’s highest-polling player again for the 2012 match while injuries ruled him out in 2011 and 2013.
This year Bennett selected the squad, choosing Vatuvei as one of his starting wingers after previously working with him with the Kiwis at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup as well as the 2010 and 2012 All Stars games.
Bennett has chosen Newcastle Knights enforcer Beau Scott to lead a team featuring at least one player from each of the NRL’s 16 clubs.
Apart from the Kiwi contingent and Scott, other players selected include Mitchell Pearce, James Graham, Michael Ennis, Matt Moylan and Paul Gallen.
Bennett said he wanted to ensure his side featured a good mix of the game’s up-and-comers as well as the stalwarts.
“We have some young guys who proved themselves last season and have a fantastic career ahead of them, combined with those who have a strong representative background,” Bennett said.
“I look forward to our players being part of the whole week of All Stars activities and community events and I commend them for their ongoing commitment to the All Stars concept, which continues to make a real difference to the lives of many Australians.”
Moylan will make his All Stars debut at fullback, along with fellow newcomers Dylan Walker and Canberra centre Jarrod Croker.
Premiership-winning Foran and Pearce, who have been friends since school, will pair up in the halves, with Brooks adding a dynamic look to the interchange.
Cronulla’s new signing Ennis, who made his All Stars debut in 2012, said he was looking forward to his return into a Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars camp.
“I really love the All Stars concept and it’s a massive honour to once again be selected to be a part of the week,” he said.
“The diversity and inclusion of this event is what makes it so special, not just for the players but the wider community and I’m glad that it’s back on the calendar.
“My children are now at the age where they can appreciate and understand what I am playing for, particularly in my representative matches and it’s really exciting that they will be there on match day.”
Tickets are available for the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars at www.ticketek.com.au/allstars
NRL ALL STARS
1 Matt Moylan (Panthers)
2 Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors)
3 Jarrod Croker (Raiders)
4 Dylan Walker (Rabbitohs)
5 Antonio Winterstein (Cowboys)
6 Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles)
7 Mitchell Pearce (Roosters)
8 James Graham (Bulldogs)
9 Michael Ennis (Sharks)
10 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters)
11 Beau Scott (Knights) c
12 Jason Taumololo (Cowboys)
13 (Paul Gallen) Sharks
14 Jesse Bromwich (Storm)
15 Luke Brooks (Wests Tigers)
16 Will Hopoate (Eels)
17 Trent Merrin (Dragons)
18 Corey Parker (Broncos)
19 Jeremy Smith (Knights)
20 Dave Taylor (Titans)