Vatuvei ready to stop Mansour
He has made at least 200 run metres in two of his past four games, and according to his teammates Manu Vatuvei is in the best form of his career.
While by the age of 28 most wingers are starting to lose some pace and head downwards on the peak form graph, in his 10th season in the NRL Vatuvei is poised to have his finest campaign to date.
With 16 tries and an average of 134 metres gained per match heading into Round 26, the Kiwi international has already surpassed most of his numbers from last season.
"I think he is in the best form of his career," Warriors utility Ben Henry told NRL.com.
"I actually said to him last week I can't believe how he can do that, every hard run out of the 10 he is always wanting the ball.
"It is great and you sort of feed off that.
"The little things he does on the field don't look like much but when you are knackered he is always there willing to take the run and get involved.
"I would totally agree that he is in career-best form, a lot of our tries and success come off what Manu does."
Following last week's 42-0 victory over the Titans – where Vatuvei carried the ball 17 times for 212 metres, 87 of which came off monster kick returns – Warriors prop Ben Matulino boldly stated that these days "when Manu is on the team is on".
That is a fair wrap for a player who not so many years ago was judged by many in the NRL to be a match-loser more often than a match-winner.
"The older he gets the bigger and faster he gets," veteran front-rower Sam Rapira said.
"The work he does on and off the ball – things I guess most fans wouldn't see – is massive.
"Just having his presence in the team lifts the boys."
This Sunday against the Panthers Vatuvei comes up against Josh Mansour, another winger who prides himself on earning yardage for his team and who perhaps epitomises the way the modern-day winger can impact a game of rugby league.
In 19 appearances this season Mansour has run for over 100 metres in all but two games, and on five occasions he recorded 200-plus.
Vatuvei, who sets himself a target of at least 100 metres and 12 carries every week, said he was relishing the chance to test himself against Mansour and believed containing the powerful Panther was a job in itself for the Warriors' middle men.
"It will be really good facing off with him, he plays on the opposite side to me but we have to stop him," Vatuvei said.
"We have to do a job on him and make sure we lock him up and drive him.
"We did an awesome job when we played them a few weeks ago [in a 30-20 win back in Round 16], so we have to do the exact same thing this week.
"And they will definitely try and do the same thing to me… but it is something that I have been working hard on and trying to improve on.
"Over 120 metres is really good for me so that is something I have been focusing on."
Meanwhile coach Andrew McFadden expected Feleti Mateo to make a seamless return to the NRL squad after playing NSW Cup last Sunday, despite the former City Origin forward missing training this week to attend a funeral in Tonga.
"He has lots of experience and played exceptionally well in our cup side on the weekend… he is extremely keen to play and I am confident he will produce," McFadden said.
"At times yes [his enigmatic style can be frustrating], but he has a skill-set that can win games so as long as he has got the right attitude towards his football he needs to be in our side."