There was a truckload of man love for Manu Vatuvei from Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns on Nine's Footy Show last Sunday, in regards to 'The Beast' reaching his 200-game milestone for the Warriors.
It is poignant then, to recall a match versus the Eels at Parramatta Stadium in Round 11, nigh on eight years ago, when the blockbusting Tongan wingman, then just twenty-one years old, had a performance that could have seen his career turn turtle right there and then.
On that despairing Monday evening, the Steeden, as if it were being operated by remote control somewhere high up in the opposition's coaching box, twisted and manipulated it's way past every confounding grab and flail at it from the hapless Warrior.
A-la Steve Mavin for Souths in a finals preliminary versus Canberra in 1987, Vatuvei fumbled several kicks along the juncture of his goalline, giifting the circling and ever-grateful Eels most of their final tally of 30 points.
However unlike Mavin, who was dragged off before halftime by his coach, George Piggins, Vatuvei was kept out to the bitter end.
One can only imagine how difficult that must have been as the crowd would surely have been letting him have it. Even Warren Smith in the Fox Sports commentary position, logically and no doubt in sympathy, was imploring the Warriors staff to "Get him off...please!"
For the benefit of his future though, staying out there through all that tribulation may just have been about the best thing that happned to Manu. For if he had been hauled off, one could argue that his promising career might have taken a mortal hit- trying to restore or recover a psychological state is surely infinitely more problematic than re-processing a learned behaviour, like practising ball skills.
I'll always remember a toughness in Vatuvei in the face of adversity. A damn-them-all, bullocking try away to Penrith a couple of years ago came at 0-62 down, in probably the worst performance in Warriors history. He was one of the few in the jersey who didn't give it away that night and the look of disgust and almost fury on his face after walking back from scoring would have sent the toughest member of the Hell's Angels scampering for the hills.
So I'll raise a glass to Manu for his significant milestone. No prouder Warrior has there probably ever been. He has certainly proved without a shadow of a doubt either that he ever was, or ever will be, 'A Beast of Burden'.
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