Manu shines in debut at 'home'
The stars seemed to align for Joseph Manu this week, gifting him a chance at a dream NRL Telstra Premiership debut against the Warriors in Auckland.
The Roosters play only one match across the Tasman this year, and it happened to be the one where the New Zealand native was selected to make his first appearance in the top grade.
It meant more than just the comfort of being in familiar surroundings too, allowing about 90 of his family and close friends to attend the match at Mt Smart Stadium.
While his team fell just short in a grinding 12-10 loss to the Warriors, Manu's performance drew praise from teammates and opponents alike, and post-match he soaked up the moment with family on the field for over half an hour before returning to the sheds.
"It was truly a big experience for me, I loved every minute of it, the whole week," Manu told NRL.com.
"Once I got told [I was making my debut] I called my mum and dad straight away and they were all happy.
"I was happy I got to do it at home, especially in front of my family, I loved having them here, it was so good."
Raised in Tokoroa, the same Waikato town former Kiwi international Isaac John was born in, the 19-year-old got straight into his work in his first outing on the big stage, getting heavily involved from the right wing to register 14 carries for 131 metres.
He also did everything in his power to score a try on debut, only to be denied by fellow Junior Kiwi graduate Ken Maumalo, in a play which was later deemed a professional foul and landed Maumalo in the sin bin.
"I just tried to take my opportunities, I know I missed a few, but I just tried to do my best in everything I did," Manu said.
"I was spewing [when denied a try midway through the first half]."
Speaking after the match at Mt Smart Stadium, fellow Kiwi Jared Waerea-Hargreaves labelled Manu's debut as "massive" and "sensational", while coach Trent Robinson said he couldn't have asked for anything more from his young flyer, who handled the week with a professionalism beyond his years.
"It was a great debut," Robinson said.
"It's actually hard, you think it may be easier coming home and debuting in New Zealand, but there is also a lot of pressure that goes with coming back to your homeland and debuting as well.
"He was great, he did everything and more than we asked of him. All that instinct that he has got, it came out.
"Tonight he had a lot of varied plays he had to play, whether it was kick returns, whether it was opportunities outside Shaun [Kenny-Dowall], whether it was defence, it was was really varied and he did really well."
The Roosters have a bye next week before facing the Bulldogs in Round 17, with Manu likely to drop back down to the lower grades when NSW Origin star Blake Ferguson returns.