Manu Vatuvei’s landmark 200th NRL appearance will be front and centre when the Vodafone Warriors take on Wests Tigers in Saturday’s sixth-round NRL clash at Mount Smart Stadium (7.30pm kick-off; match day sponsor: SKYCITY).
The try-scoring record holder provides one of the most significant individual achievements of the club’s 20th anniversary season by becoming only the third player to appear in 200 games for the Vodafone Warriors, joining Stacey Jones (261) and captain Simon Mannering (217).
Now in his 12th consecutive NRL campaign – another club record – ‘The Beast’ is also on track for two other major milestones.
With his third try of the season in last night’s loss to Melbourne, he has 138 career tries, just two short of joining Nigel Vagana on 140 tries (Vagana scored his in 240 games), the most by a New Zealander in the competition.
And he needs seven more tries this year for the unprecedented achievement of scoring 10 or more tries in 10 consecutive seasons.
After returning from Melbourne, Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has initially named a largely unchanged line-up to help Vatuvei celebrate his feat.
“Manu’s 200th game is a massive achievement, a really special moment not just for him but for the club and for everyone who supports the Vodafone Warriors and the game of rugby league,” he said.
“Playing 200 games for one club only doesn’t happen too often and what Manu has done for us and for the game can’t be overstated.
“He stands for all the values we like our players to aspire to. As a player and a person he is one of best and we’d really love people to turn out in big numbers to honour and support him. He certainly deserves it.”
Vatuvei will have long-time Vodafone Warriors team-mates alongside him against the Tigers. Mannering, who started his career a year after Vatuvei in 2005, plays his 218th game this week while props Ben Matulino (157 games) and Jacob Lillyman (129 games for the club) will also be there plus halfback Shaun Johnson, hookers Thomas Leuluai and Nathan Friend and centre Konrad Hurrell.
Of the line-up used in the 14-30 loss to the Storm, the only move sees Albert Vete back on the interchange with Dominique Peyroux listed as 18th man; Peyroux was on the bench last night but wasn’t used.
Matulino, Leuluai, Lillyman, Ryan Hoffman, Bodene Thompson and Mannering have been named as the starting forwards for the fifth consecutive week; they’ve all played every match so far this season as have bench forwards Friend and Sam Lisone. In the backline, the man of the moment Vatuvei has played every game, too, as have fullback Tuimoala Lolohea, centre Solomone Kata, standoff Chad Townsend and Johnson.
In last night’s match, Mannering and Thompson were again the defensive lynchpins, Mannering making 49 tackles with no misses and Thompson 41 while in the ball-carrying stats Matulino made 165 from 18, Lillyman 123 from 14, Jonathan Wright 121 from 11, Kata 118 from 10 and Johnson 104 from 12 while Vatuvei made 107 from just nine runs.
Saturday night’s encounter will be the 24th since Wests Tigers entered the competition in 2000. The Vodafone Warriors hold a 12-11 edge in the 23 games played so far and have won six of the 10 home games they’ve played.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
7.30pm, Saturday, April 11
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 KONRAD HURRELL
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 THOMAS LEULUAI
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 NATHAN FRIEND
15 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
16 SAM LISONE
17 ALBERT VETE
18 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN