Try-scoring record holder Manu Vatuvei and Francis Meli have dominated voting to secure the two wing positions in the Vodafone Warriors’ People's Choice 20th Anniversary Team.
Vatuvei (Vodafone Warrior #115) has emerged as the most convincing winner in voting for all positions so far capturing the bulk of the votes among the contenders for the wings.
The 29-year-old, now in a club record-equalling 12th NRL season, was well clear of Meli (#65) who was, in turn, comfortably ahead of 1995-1999 club favourite Sean Hoppe (#3).
Both left wing specialists, Vatuvei and Meli stand out as not only the most experienced wings in the club’s history but also the most prolific scorers.
Vatuvei’s 146 tries in 209 games is far and away the club record (Stacey Jones is second on 77); his total is the 12th best in the competition’s 107-year history while his strike rate of a try every 1.43 games is among the best as well.
Meli was an outstanding weapon during his 110 games for the club, his 60 tries at a rate of a try every 1.83 games; which serves to further underline Vatuvei’s exceptional record.
Together the anniversary team wings boast a total 206 tries in 319 games.
Meli excelled at a time when the Vodafone Warriors made three consecutive finals series in 2001, 2002 and 2003, winning the minor premiership and reaching the grand final in 2002. In 2003, Meli scored a club record 23 tries including an NRL final record of five tries in the play-off win against Canterbury-Bankstown that season. After bringing up his 100th appearance during the 2005 campaign, Meli finished up in the NRL to join St Helens in the English Super League. During his Vodafone Warriors career, he was part of 55 wins, two draws and 53 losses.
During Vatuvei’s career the Vodafone Warriors have made the finals four times in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011 (although injury kept him out of the 2007 finals). Despite not making the play-offs in the last three seasons, Vatuvei has still maintained an outstanding scoring record, this year completing the unprecedented feat of scoring 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons. He has so far been involved in 106 wins, three draws and 100 losses in his career.
After Vatuvei, Meli and Hoppe, Henry Fa’afili was fourth and Kevin Locke fifth in the voting.
The selection of Vatuvei and Meli follows the choice of Brent Webb as the top fullback in the www.warriors.kiwi poll while P J Marsh was chosen at hooker, Simon Mannering and Ali Lauitiiti in the second row, Steve Price and Ben Matulino as the props and Clinton Toopi and Brent Tate as the centres.
Next up will be the vote to find the top loose forward.
The choices so far have been:
HOOKER | P J MARSH
P J Marsh (#96) | 2002-2003, 35 games, 5 tries, 12 goals, 1 field goal
FULLBACK | BRENT WEBB
Brent Webb (#97) | 2002-2006, 103 games, 39 tries, 27 goals
SECOND ROWERS | SIMON MANNERING AND ALI LAUTIITI
Ali Lauitiiti (#55) | 1998-2004, 115 games, 33 tries
Simon Mannering (#125) | 2005-2015, 227 games, 52 tries
PROPS | STEVE PRICE AND BEN MATULINO
Steve Price (#121) | 2005-2009, 91 games, 13 tries
Ben Matulino (#142) | 2008-2015, 168 games, 15 tries
CENTRES | CLINTON TOOPI AND BRENT TATE
Clinton Toopi (#66) | 1999-2006, 129 games, 57 tries
Brent Tate (#137) | 2008-2010, 48 games, 12 tries
WINGS | MANU VATUVEI AND FRANCIS MELI
Manu Vatuvei (#115) | 2004-2015, 209 games, 146 tries
Francis Meli (#65) | 1999-2005, 110 games, 60 tries