Worlds collide when Beast meets Semi
Coming up against the Semi Radradra of 2014 is enough to put the fear of god into most NRL sides, but the Warriors don’t appear fazed in the slightest.
Despite Radradra being arguably the best winger in the NRL right now, with 15 tries in as many games along with a range of other freakish statistics, the message out of the Warriors this week is that the man who will mark up on him, Manu Vatuvei, has his number.
“I’d say Manu is the better player there,” fullback Sam Tomkins declared ahead of Saturday’s clash at Mount Smart Stadium.
“Hopefully he can put on a good performance and get one over him on the weekend. They are both big blokes and it will be a good contest.”
Big blokes indeed - two of the biggest wingers currently running around in the NRL in fact, with 107kg Vatuvei and 98kg Radradra going by the nicknames ‘The Beast’ and ‘Semi-trailer’ respectively.
Since debuting back in 2004 Vatuvei, 28, has made a habit of going through would-be defenders rather than around them, and is confident that won’t change despite 22-year-old Radradra measuring up to him physically.
“There is no reason why I should change my game,” Vatuvei said. “If he can stop me he can stop me, but if he can’t then it’s a good thing for myself.
“I will keep running as hard as I can and do my best.
“He has been playing really well. He has a lot of form and is very strong and quick.
“With his power and speed, he has been consistent every week [and] is the form winger.”
Suva-born Radradra has the edge statistically, having scored five tries more than Vatuvei’s 10, and broken through 50 tackles compared to his opponents 39.
He also makes less errors and misses fewer tackles on average, and has the recent head-to-head advantage after scoring a hat-trick on Vatuvei back in Round 1, as the Eels demolished the New Zealanders 36-16 at Pirtek Stadium.
But Warriors coach Andrew McFadden believes it is the Eels who should be worried.
“I am certainly happy with Manu’s form, so it won’t be just a matter of us stopping Radradra, it will be a matter of them stopping Manu,” McFadden said.
“I am pretty confident Manu will handle him. He is fit, confident and has been working hard.”
Meanwhile Vatuvei said he will head into the game refreshed, following a bye week which allowed some time to rest his battered body.
“I went on a trip with my family and a few of the members from my church here in Auckland to Hillsong Church in Australia and got a bit of refreshment there,” he said.
"I still have a lot to improve on but they byes have come at the right time and given my body a bit of a rest. Right now I just have to focus on looking after it.”