Manu Vatuvei, Warriors NRL Nines rugby league squad announcement, Warriors Gym, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland. 16 January 2015. Copyright Photo: William Booth/www.photosport.co.nz

#FeedTheBeast | Manu matters

Manu Vatuvei’s big statistics have been bandied about all week – 199 matches and 138 tries – but they don’t measure the depth and breadth of his total contribution to the Vodafone Warriors.

Undoubtedly the same will be the case when he lines up for his 200th NRL appearance for the club against Wests Tigers at his beloved Mount Smart Stadium tonight (7.30 kick-off; game day sponsor: SKYCITY).

In the build-up to the contest Vatuvei has been everywhere.

The club has run a concerted social media campaign - #FeedTheBeast – and there have been countless interviews as the man of the moment has spoken about the past, present and future. Among them was a captivating interview with Beau Ryan on The Footy Show while he also provided the cover feature for Big League.

All manner of tributes and recorded messages have flooded in for him from many of the game’s greats, former team-mates, opponents, television presenters and also Prime Minister John Key. Many of those were played at a special team dinner last night when Vatuvei was surrounded by his family, friends and team-mates. In a touching moment a tearful Vatuvei was presented with his 200-game jersey by his father.

Tonight can’t come soon enough for The Beast to do what he enjoys the most, being out on Mount Smart Stadium with his peers ever-willing to do what it takes to help the club he says has given him everything.

There have been countless games when Vatuvei’s wondrous try-scoring ability has lit up the side, or a bristling tackle-breaking charge out of defence has inspired the Vodafone Warriors and brought the crowd alive.

There have also been many games in his glittering career when he didn’t feature on the score sheet but his efforts were invaluable.

One of those was the play-off against tonight’s opposition at Sydney Football Stadium in 2011 when the Vodafone Warriors fell behind 0-12 early on and went to halftime 6-18 down. Coming off a heavy loss to Brisbane in week one of the finals, the outlook wasn’t encouraging.

But Vatuvei, as much as anyone, inspired the turnaround. Time and time again he brought the ball out of defence, thundering into defenders to get sets started. Gradually the Vodafone Warriors bit back into the contest until Krisnan Inu snared the dramatic match-winner late in the piece. It was the supremely selfless and humble Vatuvei who had done so much to help the cause through his sheer grit and hard work.

He has also always epitomised courage by routinely defying injury to play on through pain. One of those occasions was in 2008 when it was discovered he had played on against Gold Coast with a spiral fracture in his left fibula; he returned several weeks later against Manly, scoring a stunning try when he beat Brett Stewart only to be forced to leave the field immediately (it later transpired the leg was still broken).

It’s a testament to his toughness and passion that, despite an array of injuries, he keeps turning up season after season. After making five appearances in his debut season in 2004 and another 12 as he developed in 2005, the fewest games he has had in a year since has been 17 in 2008.

Another measurement of his value can be found in the win-loss numbers when he has played. Of his 199 games so far, 101 have been won, two draw and 95 lost. For some context, Simon Mannering has been in a winning Vodafone Warriors side 107 times, a losing one 107 times plus three draws; Ben Matulino’s numbers run 75-80 with two draws and Shaun Johnson’s 40-48.

Vatuvei’s try-scoring tally of 138 – which shows no sign of drying up – has him 61 clear of the next closest for the club (Stacey Jones on 77).

For all that it wasn’t until 2008 that Vatuvei scored his first career hat-trick. Fittingly it was a night of personal redemption, his return to Parramatta Stadium after his well-documented nightmare outing there in 2007.

There was so much focus on Vatuvei’s return by the Sydney media, the heat turned up even more because opposing him was a then-young Tony Williams. He was being hyped up as the next big thing, a player who would make Vatuvei’s return to Parramatta a harrowing experience. Not to be as Vatuvei totally dominated Williams by scoring three tries in a resounding 28-6 win.

Since that night he has scored five more hat-tricks – against Cronulla and Newcastle in 2010, South Sydney in 2011, Canberra in 2013 and Canberra against in 2014.

It says so much for his ability that his try-scoring strike rate remains exceptional, a testament to him that he can maintain such standards as a 29-year-old out-and-out winger now in his 12th season. Indeed in his last 30 games stretching back to late in the 2013 season he has scored 24 tries.

His season-by-season breakdown looks like:

2004 |   5 games        0 tries

2005 |   12 games      9 tries

2006 |   18 games      10 tries

2007 |   23 games      10 tries

2008 |   17 games      16 tries

2009 |   19 games      13 tries

2010 |   19 games      20 tries

2011 |   19 games      12 tries

2012 |   20 games      12 tries

2013 |   19 games      16 tries

2014 |   23 games      17 tries

2015 |   5 games        3 tries

Research provided by Sportsdata shows last season was the best of Vatuve’s career in terms of metres gained with an astonishing 3111 in 23 appearances.

Averaging almost 0.70 of a try a game – or, put another way, a try every 1.44 games, Vatuvei has made almost 2400 runs in his career and a total of 23,482 metres. That works out to an average of almost 11 runs and 120 metres a game.

So far this season he’s way above those numbers averaging more than 170 metres and 15 runs a game.

Career stats (averages per game and career totals):

Runs | 11.87  2363

Metres | 118  23,482

Kick returns | 1.54  306

Kick return metres| 18.48  3678

Linebreaks| 0.7  139

Tackle breaks | 3.66  728

Off loads | 1.07  213

Tackles | 4.36  867

Try assists | 0.18  36

Season highs:

Tries | 20 (2010)

Metres | 3111 (2014)

Linebreaks | 19 (2008)

Tackle breaks | 114 (2008)

Match highs:

Runs | 19 (Rd 6, 2009; Rd 13, 2012; Rd 22, 2014; Rd 3, 2015)

Metres | 239 (Rd 25, 2013; Rd 26, 2014)

Linebreaks | 3 (9 times)

Tackle breaks | 15 (Rd 2, 2010)

  • Stats | www.sportsdata.com.au                   

FIVE KEY FEATURES

#1 MANU VATUVEI | In a week when so much focus has been on him ahead of his landmark appearance, ‘The Beast’ will now want to get into the contest. He has been in outstanding form so far this season and couldn’t hope for a better place to play his 200th game.

#2 BEN MATULINO & JACOB LILLYMAN | The starting props were both impressive against Melbourne leading the team for metres gained, Matulino topping 160 metres and Lillyman more than 120. More of the same is needed tonight against an energetic Wests Tigers pack.

#3 KONRAD HURRELL | After a month on the sideline, Hurrell was back against the Storm, coming into the side late for the injured Ngani Laumape. He’ll be better for the run and will be a key in giving the Vodafone Warriors’ right edge plenty of punch tonight.

#4 SIMON MANNERING | Averaging more than 50 tackles a game so far, Mannering will revel in the opportunity of contributing to a special night for his long-time team-mate Manu Vatuvei. He’ll aim up all game as he always does; work rate personified.

#5 SHAUN JOHNSON | The Vodafone Warriors’ No 1 playmaker was heavily involved against the Storm, making more than 100 metres from 11 runs and backing up with a solid defensive workload making 19 tackles. He threatened to cut loose more than once.

 

TOP STATS | MONDAY, APRIL 06 v MELBOURNE LOST 14-30

Most runs | Ben Matulino 18, Jacob Lillyman 14, Simon Mannering 12, Jonathan Wright 11, Shaun Johnson 11, Solomone Kata 10, Bodene Thompson 10, Manu Vatuvei 9.

Most metres | Ben Matulino 165, Jacob Lillyman 123, Jonathan Wright 121, Solomone Kata 118, Manu Vatuvei 107, Shaun Johnson 104.

Most tackle breaks | Manu Vatuvei 5, Solomone Kata 4, Chad Townsend 3, Sebastine Ikahihifo 3.  

Most tackles | Simon Mannering 49, Bodene Thompson 41, Thomas Leuluai 26, Ryan Hoffman 25, Ben Matulino 23, Jacob Lillyman 21, Shaun Johnson 19, Chad Townsend 19.

Missed tackles | Simon Mannering 0, Sebastine Ikahihifo 0, Sam Lisone 0, Manu Vatuvei 0, Tuimoala Lolohea 0.

 

RECORD | v WESTS TIGERS

Overall | Played 23, Vodafone Warriors 12, Wests Tigers 11.

At Mount Smart Stadium | Played 9, Vodafone Warriors 5, Wests Tigers 4.

At home (including Westpac Stadium) | Played 10, Vodafone Warriors 6, Wests Tigers 4.

  

MILESTONES WATCH

500 Games | The Vodafone Warriors play their 496th match since entering the competition in 1995.

200 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Manu Vatuvei plays his 200th NRL match.

200 NRL Games | Jacob Lillyman plays his 192nd NRL match.

150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 130th game for the club.

100 NRL Games (all for Vodafones Warriors) | Shaun Johnson plays his 89th NRL match.

100 NRL Games | Bodene Thompson plays his 91st NRL match.

50 NRL Games | Chad Townsend plays his 44th NRL match.

150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 138 tries in 199 games.

50 NRL Tries | Shaun Johnson and Konrad Hurrell have scored 37 tries.

 

VODAFONE WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS

Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

7.30pm, Saturday, April 11

Referees: Gavin Badger and Chris Sutton

 

VODAFONE WARRIORS

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)

Interchange:

14       NATHAN FRIEND

15       SEBSATINE IKAHIHIFO

16       SAM LISONE

17       ALBERT VETE

18       DOMINIQUE PEYROUX

HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN

 

BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ

Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.42, Wests Tigers $2.70

GO TO TAB.CO.NZ FOR ALL ODDS | VODAFONE WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS

TV COVERAGE

SKY SPORT 2: Live from 7.00pm (kick-off 7.30pm), Saturday, April 11