Despite more than 200 first-grade appearances, Warriors icon Manu Vatuvei admits there were more than a few nerves ahead of his return to the NRL.
The 36-18 win over Brisbane in Auckland on Saturday was the giant wing’s first NRL match in more than a month, after being one of six players dropped over a late night out and then being given leave to deal with personal issues.
“I was nervous the whole week,” he said.
“I tried to keep a straight face the whole time, but when I got home, I was telling my family how nervous I was and they said it was a good thing.
“I’m happy I got my first carry out of the way and everything went up after that.”
It was a big Vatuvei hit-up that started the try of the match, second rower Bodene Thompson dotting down in the 16th minute after a length-of-the-field attack.
The win over competition heavyweights Brisbane has given the inconsistent Warriors a boost, but the challenge now is to back up when they are away to Newcastle next Saturday.
The Warriors have struggled to string victories together this season, managing back-to-back wins only once.
“People will talk about commitment, but it’s always been there,” Vatuvei said.
“It’s just been a lack of confidence. When things went wrong, everyone went into their shell. But we can take a lot of confidence out of this game and hopefully carry that on to next week.
Coach Andrew McFadden said Vatuvei provided the first-half spark for the Warriors, who led 18-0 at one stage.
In the lead-up to Thompson’s try, the Warriors were going backwards before Vatuvei got the ball.
“I could just see him grit his teeth and say, this is where the team needs me, and that is what Manu does for us,” McFadden said.
“He’s a class player and those sorts of players have a different edge to them.”