‘The Beast’ is back just in time for the return of the Vodafone Warriors’ highly-anticipated traditional Anzac Day clash against the Storm at AMI in Melbourne next Monday.
The 30-year-old Manu Vatuvei will be lining up against Melbourne for the 16th time in his career, his return a timely boost in a difficult week following fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s season-ending knee injury.
Vatuvei’s start to his club record 13th NRL campaign has been hampered by two niggling complaints. A rib injury forced him off the field after just 47 minutes of the second-round match against Brisbane at a time when the Vodafone Warriors were right in the hunt trailing just 10-12, before going on to lose 10-25.
The injury kept him out of the team’s first home game of the season against Melbourne when the Vodafone Warriors lost a tough battle 14-21 and had to hand over the Michael Moore Trophy.
He was back to face Newcastle a week later, delivering a performance which was close to the team’s best in a 40-18 victory after the contest had been locked 12-12 at halftime.
Vatuvei scored his first try of the season that day and added his second early in the next outing against the Sydney Roosters only to leave the field with a hamstring problem after 66 minutes, so missing out on the pulsating golden point finish.
The injury kept him out of the disappointing display against Manly and then last week’s exhilarating 24-20 bounce-back victory over the Bulldogs.
Now he returns for the seventh edition of the Vodafone Warriors-Melbourne Anzac Day tradition, a match which produced a crowd of 28,716 – a regular season record for the Storm – when they last met on April 25 in 2014 (the match was set to one side when the NRL staged five Anzac Day matches in five different cities last year including Auckland and Melbourne).
Vatuvei goes into the match needing two more tries to become only the 11th player in the competition’s history to score 150 career tries.
It will be his 16th outing against Melbourne since entering the NRL in 2004. In the 15 so far he has scored 11 tries and been involved in six wins, a draw and eight losses. He has played in three of the six Anzac Day games to date (2009, 2012 and 2014), the last delivering Andrew McFadden with his first victory after taking over as head coach.