Young Rooster revels in triple glory
As the sun began to set over the top of the western grandstand, and the last remaining fans funnelled out of Eden Park, Joseph Manu remained down on the field savouring every second of the occasion in the middle of a scrum of loved ones.
Selfies, handshakes and hugs were all exchanged by the 30-strong contingent from the small Waikato town of Tokoroa, where Manu hails from.
"It was certainly a special moment… having all my family out there and to celebrate with them was cool," Manu told NRL.com after the Roosters beat the Panthers 10-8 to win the 2017 Downer NRL Auckland Nines title.
"They helped me get here in my career, so I am happy for them right now."
It was the third time in eight months that Manu had enjoyed this type of feeling, capping off a period which also saw the 20-year-old New Zealander make his NRL Telstra Premiership debut for the Roosters against the Warriors in June and win the 2016 Holden Cup Grand Final against the Panthers in October.
"It's crazy, a few years ago I was living in New Zealand not even playing league and now I am in Sydney having won the Nines, the under-20s title and I have played a few NRL games," he said.
"Everything is just happening so quick and it is crazy that I am living the dream.
"It sure is going to be hard to back this 12 months up in terms of success."
Along the way Manu has shared the journey with a bunch of teammates who now form the future of the Bondi club.
Fellow members of the winning Nines team, Latrell Mitchell, Paul Momirovski and player of the tournament Connor Watson all played with Manu in the 2014 Roosters SG Ball side which won the competition.
Manu said that while few punters had the Tricolours among the pre-tournament favourites to win the title at Eden Park, he always believed their youthful team would be in the mix.
"When they picked the side I had a lot of faith in it because we had a lot of the young boys who I have played with, and I know what they are capable of," Manu said.
"I was pretty much backing us to go the whole way all along.
"It's awesome playing with these boys, they are pretty much my brothers now. When I first moved over I had no family or friends and now that I have met them it has been special to go on this journey together."