Just days after joining the 200-game club and setting an all-time try-scoring record, Manu Vatuvei has extended his Vodafone Warriors career to a record 15 seasons with a new three-year contract to the end of the 2018 NRL campaign.
The 29-year-old left wing, now in his 12th consecutive NRL season, will make his 202nd appearance when the Vodafone Warriors face the Gold Coast Titans in the club’s first-ever Anzac Day match at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday (1.45pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Canterbury of New Zealand).
Today’s contract announcement follows Vatuvei’s memorable 200th appearance against Wests Tigers at home on April 11 when he scored two tries in the 32-22 win to equal Nigel Vagana’s record for the most tries in the NRL by a New Zealander (140).
Last Saturday he claimed the record outright with his 141st try – and his sixth in seven games this season – in the heartbreaking 24-28 loss to North Queensland.
“I’m so grateful to the club for giving me the chance to stay here this long,” said Vatuvei.
“My manager Pete (Peter Brown) looked at some other options including rugby union but I wanted to stay at the Vodafone Warriors. It has always been my vision growing up at the club to be a Warrior for life.
“I want to thank everyone who has helped me along the way, the players, the coaches, the staff and all the members and fans who have given me so much support through the years.
“I’m really pleased to have this contract and I’ll do everything I can to repay the faith the club has shown in me.”
Vodafone Warriors managing director Jim Doyle said it was critical the club retained Vatuvei.
“Manu is so important in an all-round sense to the Vodafone Warriors,” he said.
“He’s exceptionally popular with everyone inside and outside the club. We value what he means for us and what he also means to rugby league.”
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden said Vatuvei’s new contract takes him to the next level among NRL players.
“It’s a tribute to Manu and a reflection of the regard we hold him in that he is set to extend his career to 15 seasons. That’s an exceptional achievement,” he said.
“He is hugely important to our side and to the club as a whole. The contribution he continues to make is outstanding and he has certainly started this season very well.”
Only two other players match Vatuvei’s feat of representing the Vodafone Warriors in 12 NRL seasons – Stacey Jones (1995-2005 and 2009) and Jerome Ropati (2003-2014) – while captain Simon Mannering is in his 11th season.
Vatuvei’s try-scoring strike rate is among the best for long-serving players in the game with 141 in 201 games including an impressive 27 in his last NRL 32 games. He now needs only four more tries this year to complete the unprecedented feat of scoring 10 or more tries in 10 consecutive seasons.
He scored two tries in the Kiwis’ victory in last year’s Four Nations final against Australia to overtake Vagana’s record for most Test tries for New Zealand (20 in 27 Tests).
Vatuvei won the NRL’s Favourite Son award last year. At the Vodafone Warriors’ annual awards he was named the SKYCITY players’ player of the year as well as the Canterbury of New Zealand club person of the year. He was also a finalist for the NRL’s Ken Stephen Medal.
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 7 games 6 tries
Born: March 4, 1986
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Junior Club: Otara Scorpions (Auckland)
Other Clubs: Otahuhu Ellerslie (Bartercard Cup), Otahuhu (Auckland)
Vodafone Warriors No: 115
NRL Debut: Vodafone Warriors v South Sydney, Aussie Stadium, May 23, 2004 (Round 11)
NRL Career: 201 appearances for Vodafone Warriors, 2004-2015
NRL Points: 564 (141 tries)
Kiwi No: 720
Test Debut: v Australia, Sydney, October 15, 2005 (Tri Nations)
Test Career: 27 Tests for Kiwis 2005-2014
Test Points: 80 points (20 tries)
Other Teams: NRL All Stars 2010, 2012, 2015; All Golds 2008
Educated: Sir Edmund Hillary College (Auckland)
ANZAC DAY | VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST
Date | Saturday, April 25
Gates Open | 9.30am
NYC | Vodafone Junior Warriors v Gold Coast Titans, 9.40am
New South Wales Cup | 11.40am
Anzac Day Ceremony | 1.35pm
NRL | Vodafone Warriors v Gold Coast Titans, 1.45pm