The Beast is back for just his second NRL home game of the season on Saturday.
Manu Vatuvei makes his long-awaited return in the Vodafone Warriors’ 13th-round NRL encounter with Brisbane (5.00pm), having missed more than half the club’s games so far through a combination of injuries and unavailability.
Only one of his five 2016 NRL games has been at his beloved Mount Smart Stadium – against Newcastle on March 28 when he scored a try in a 40-18 victory, the team’s first win of the season.
His only other home game was for the Intrust Super Premiership side when he scored two tries in a 42-12 win over Canterbury Bankstown on May 1.
So much has been said and written about the club’s try-scoring record holder since his last NRL outing against Melbourne on April 25.
On Wednesday he was centre stage at the weekly media session, surrounded by cameras and journalists as he spoke of not only how ready he is but also how excited he is to be back playing alongside his team-mates after five weeks on the side line. The sparkle was back in his eyes, his gold teeth flashing and his ready smile and cackling laugh on form again.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden is just as keen to have the big man back, noting his absence had been a reminder - if it was needed - of how important he is to the side.
For his part Vatuvei is hoping this weekend reboots his season after a disrupted start which saw him forced off the field with a rib injury early in the second half of the round two clash against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium. That kept him out of the Melbourne encounter in Auckland the following week before he left the field with a hamstring issue after 66 minutes of the fifth-round win over the Sydney Roosters.
It means he has had just three full matches yet, despite being limited to an average 71 minutes a game, he’s still averaging more than 12 runs and 120 metres game while he has made a total of 14 tackle breaks, seven off loads and one error.
With his two tries he now has a career tally of 148 in 215 games, the 11th best in a competition which dates back to 1908. He’s poised to become only the 11th player to score 150 tries with Billy Slater (172) and Brett Stewart (163) the only current players ranked ahead of him.
Saturday's outing will be Vatuvei's 95th NRL appearance at Mount Smart Stadium.