There are 500 special reasons to be at Mount Smart Stadium when the Vodafone Warriors face Gold Coast this Saturday night (5.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: TNT).
Simon Mannering provides haf of them when he makes his 250th NRL appearance, becoming only the second player to reach the milestone behind the great Stacey Jones. The other 250 reasons belong to Mount Smart Stadium itself.
It just so happens that on the same night Mannering is hitting 250 career games, the ground that means so much to so many rugby league supporters, is staging the Vodafone Warriors’ 250th home game since it became the club’s base in 1995.
Ahead lies a week of reminiscing about both Mannering’s contribution and the stadium’s place in people’s hearts as they recall a string of famous moments at the club’s home.
The 29-year-old Mannering has been a colossus for the Vodafone Warriors since he was first seen at first-grade level in the club’s 10th anniversary clash against Brisbane at Mount Smart Stadium on June 26, 2005.
The man known as ‘Junior’ has turned out performances of consistent quality with metronomic precision. He is an absolute machine.
As much was on display yet again in the Vodafone Warriors’ heartbreaking 18-19 golden point loss to competition leader Cronulla on Saturday night.
He worked himself to a literal standstill, so much so head coach Andrew McFadden had to take him off the field three minutes into the first period of extra time because he had given everything he had.
In 83 minutes Mannering made a mammoth 67 tackles including two critical try savers in the opening period, most notably his stop on Sharks standoff James Maloney just metres short of the Vodafone Warriors’ goal-line. Mannering also carried the ball 11 times for 84 metres in the toughest zone of the contest in the middle of the park.
Last year he effected 1092 tackles with just 27 missed tackles in 24 games while he also made more than 2500 metres with the ball.
In 13 games so far this season – he has missed two through injury – he has made 590 tackles and more than 1200 metres.
Throughout this week there will be a flow of content on Mannering before his 250-game feat is recognised as the key feature of the game day programme for Saturday’s match against the Titans. There will be various stories and interviews on www.warriors.kiwi and through the club’s social media channels paying tribute to the four-times player of the year and the club’s captain for a record 136 games from 2010-2015.
Similarly, it’s a time to recall Mount Smart Stadium’s magic moments from opening night on March 10, 1995, Jones’ 100th appearance in 1999, to the first home final against the Canberra Raiders in 2002, the 200th appearances – all for the Vodafone Warriors – by both Mannering and Manu Vatuvei and much more.
A special week indeed.