Warriors News Rattue: Time For Manu To Go

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By Chris Rattue

The Warriors' soft loss to the West Tigers was the last straw for this punter when it comes to Manu Vatuvei.

The supersized wing has been a marvellous part of the Warriors' history, deservedly loved by many fans through the thick and thin adventures of the Auckland-based NRL club. Vatuvei's humble demeanour and thunderous exploits will live in the memory - he has been one of this city's great sporting characters.

But if the Warriors have aspirations towards a Melbourne-type dynasty of excellence, they can't afford Vatuvei's error strewn game anymore. It's time to start planning for a future without Big Manu by promoting a new young prospect.

Vatuvei single handedly lost the match to an under-strength Tigers outfit ripe for a mauling. It was beyond frustrating to watch the Big Clanger again. Three Vatuvei errors turned the match against his team: he inexplicably botched a lame Tigers kick on the ground, bombed a bomb he had in his grasp, and parked on his goal line allowing Matt Utai to burrow over. After 140-odd NRL games, he's still the same old Manu Vatuvei unfortunately, and the loss of concentration which allowed the Utai try is typical of the lack of defensive co-ordination and nous that has marred his career.

How many times have we been through this before - his errors were also at the heart of the season's opening round loss to the Sea Eagles at Eden Park. Yet Vatuvei appears immune from the selection axe.

Until this year I've been in the Vatuvei camp, but the tide began to turn after that maddening display against Manly. The really frustrating part about the Wests Tigers debacle - and it was a debacle in terms of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory - is that it pulled the rug out from under all the good foundation work which had brought impressive victories against the Broncos and Roosters. Momentum lost, confidence dented, two points down the drain.

The overall formula for the Warriors is relatively straightforward: be efficient in the basics and allow the advantages in power and skill to turn this club into an unstoppable NRL force (that's why they need to show the lazy, hazy Krisnan Inu the door). Coach Brian McClennan must have thought he was making progress only to take a few steps backwards against Tim Sheens' under-powered unit.

While other clubs promote sharp wings with spectacular ways of scoring in tight situations, Vatuvei is more of a dedicated hit up merchant early in the tackle count and a target for the Warriors' cross field bombs. He does both very well but errors a la the Tigers' stuff up leave the bad outweighing the good. The Warriors have more than enough outstanding props to do most of the crash-bash work. They've got ample power in the backs with fearsome Konrad Hurrell on the rise and the big Melbourne unit Dane Nielsen on the way.

The recent NRL powerhouses have been moulded by fanatical taskmasters who demand attention to detail and discipline. The Warriors' way may allow a bit more latitude, but not the sort that should accommodate Vatuvei's continual bloopers. The time has come to celebrate Vatuvei for the wonderful-if-tainted memories, and move on.

* Without being patronising, this is an opportunity to praise our league stars in Australia who have resisted the State of Origin temptation and stayed loyal to the Kiwi cause. Anyone who has followed the media build up to tonight's opening encounter between New South Wales and Queensland will realise how overwhelming the Origin series has become.

Selection ramifications and contests dominate the headlines and discussions, far beyond anything that test football receives. In such an environment, it must be easy for players heads to be turned.

Here we go... The great Manu debate all over again... Sure he hasnt had a great start to the season but he would be one of the first guys Id be naming in my team every week and more than likely will be for a few more years yet
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