In the week leading up to his 200th NRL appearance for the Vodafone Warriors, Ben Matulino had his match jersey presented to him by two friends and veterans of the club, Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei.
It was an historic presentation for the club with Matulino joining Mannering, Vatuvei and club legend Stacey Jones as the only players to have played 200 first grade games for the franchise.
Mannering and Vatuvei paid tribute to the prop forward for his toughness as a youngster and his ability to play NRL football in his debut season. They also highlighted his ability to rock ball carriers with his big left shoulder hits.
The Lower Hutt-raised Matulino acknowledged Mannering for the part he played in coming to the Vodafone Warrior as a junior. Like Matulino, Mannering played representative rugby league for Wellington before signing for the Vodafone Warriors, a move Matulino would later make.
Matulino the Vodafone Warrior almost never happened. He initially signed a letter of intent to join the Newcastle Knights while still in Wellington but later decided he didn’t want to leave home, opting instead for a move up to Auckland a year later as a better fit for him and for his family.
With his wife and two children in attendance the presentation closed with Matulino presenting his wife Courtenay with a bouquet of flowers, thanking her for the support she has given him throughout his rugby league career.