Giant Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei can reflect on plenty of NRL highlights, but a night he’d rather forget keeps motivating him.
As “the Beast” approaches his landmark 200th match for his only club, he recalls a nightmare game in Sydney’s west eight years ago – a 30-6 defeat to Parramatta when his handling woes contributed to three of six opposition tries.
“One game I want to forget but I will always remember is the Parramatta game,” he said.
“I’ll remember because it helps me a lot with how I prepare every day and every week.”
When Vatuvei runs out against West Tigers at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday, he will become the third player behind club icon Stacey Jones (261) and present skipper Simon Mannering (217) to reach the 200 mark for the Warriors.
It’s an achievement the 29-year-old believed was beyond him when he kicked off his first-grade career against South Sydney in May 2004.
“Growing up as a little kid, making my debut, I never ever thought I would get to the stage I am right now,” he said.
“I’m just blessed the club has a lot of confidence that I can still do the job.”
The 27-Test Kiwi is also nearing other milestones.
Three more touchdowns and he will become the most prolific New Zealand try-scorer in NRL history, eclipsing Nigel Vagana mark of 140.
Seven more this year and he will complete the unprecedented feat of 10 or more tries in 10 consecutive seasons.
But Vatuvei said records weren’t really a focus for him.
“It’s just a stat,” he said.
“The thing I’m more focused on is playing my best game every week. I have to be more consistent every time and hopefully I’m doing that for the team.”
While the Eels in May 2007 is the lowlight, the highlight for Vatuvei from his 199 games so far is the grand final appearance against Manly in 2011.
What he wants now is to go one better and snare a premiership ring.
“I was real close to winning that, but the dream is still there,” he said.
“The fire is still burning. Hopefully we can do it this year.”
MANU VATUVEI – KEY FACTS
NRL debut: v South Sydney, May 2004
NRL matches: 199
Kiwis Tests: 27 (2005- ).