Vatuvei thrilled to pip Vagana at last
When Manu Vatuvei bowled over three defenders to score a 48th-minute try in last Saturday's match with the Cowboys he felt a weight disappear off his shoulders.
He had finally evened the score with old mate Nigel Vagana in their running battle, going over for his 141st try and surpassing Vagana as the most-prolific try scoring Kiwi in Telstra Premiership history.
"Nigel and I play pool whenever we catch up and we have a competition, he's leading at the moment, one up on me," Vatuvei explained.
"So yeah, we are 1-1 now!"
The pair have been close friends since the 2005 Tri-Nations when Vagana was tasked with looking after a 19-year-old Vatuvei who was making his international debut.
"When I made the Kiwis for the first time he was my roomie and looked after me really well," 29-year-old Vatuvei said.
"That was a really special moment for me [to break the record], especially to go past a guy like Nigel who I have looked up to as a young guy.
"He has been an awesome player and an inspiration to Kiwis, a lot of the young guys here at the Warriors look up to him and hopefully I can have that same impact that he had on me."
It's been a big year for Vatuvei who in round six celebrated his 200th NRL game, and this week re-signed with the Warriors for another three years, almost certainly ensuring he will remain a one-club man.
Captain Simon Mannering said that once Vatuvei decided to stay the Warriors were always going to offer him a new deal.
"I think it was always going to be his decision, I don't think the club would want to let him go and if they did I don't think his teammates would let it happen," Mannering said.
"If Manu wanted to leave no one would have held a grudge against him for that, he has done so much for the club.
"But the fact that he wanted to stay I think was a foregone conclusion and it's great that he will be here for a few more years.
"He's already a legend of the club and it's awesome to be able to play alongside him in his special career."
As for what happens beyond 2018, by which time Vatuvei will be 32, the giant winger says he will know when the time has come to walk away.
"I have got to listen to my body. If I can't produce what the team is looking for then I will be happy to put my hand up and hang the boots up," he said.
"That time will come. The likes of Rubes (Ruben Wiki) and Pricey (Steve Price) played well past 30 and I have always had a goal that if I play over 32 or 33 I will be really happy.
"Hopefully my body holds up alright and I can sign for another year or so after this contract."