Joseph Manu is the sort of player who gets better in the big games.
Capable of dominating any rival centre on his day, the Roosters centre says it's down to a personal desire to beat his opposite number which is borne out every week at training when he gets "bashed" by teammate Latrell Mitchell when the club trains left edge against right edge.
In a convincing 30-6 qualifying final win over the Rabbitohs at the SCG on Friday night, he tormented opposite number – Blues Origin flyer James Roberts – and makeshift winger Adam Doueihi, with one powerful try and a stunning flick pass to help set up another.
It's a case of déjà vu for the 23-year-old Kiwi, who bubbled through 2018 playing well without totally dominating but exploded in the latter part of the season to stake his claim as one of the two best centres in the world alongside teammate Latrell Mitchell.
The pair ended up marking each other in their respective Test debuts at the end of the year, with Manu earning a try and the bragging rights in a 26-24 win.
Speaking after dismantling the South Sydney left edge, the softly spoken speedster is the classic smiling assassin as he grins sheepishly and declares he makes those battles personal.
Match Highlights: Roosters v Rabbitohs
"Me and Latrell, it's been good training this week, he bashes me up a lot!" Manu laughed.
"It's pretty good to have one of the best centres to train against. We get confidence and belief and we know what we're capable of. We just have to go out there and do it each week.
"It gets a lot harder each week, he likes to bring a lot of challenges. I got smashed this week from him. It's definitely getting tougher. Only three more weeks to keep getting hit by Latrell!
"It's good, the competition, he doesn't want to lose, our edge doesn't want to lose.
"One of my things I love to do is compete and be better than my opposite centre or my opposite player. I compete with myself too. I love the personal battles you get out there in the centres, there's a lot of good centres getting around. I take it personally and attack every game."
Manu knew he would have his work cut out against the blistering pace of Roberts.
"At first I thought 'he's pretty quick' so I knew I had to defend well," Manu said.
"Second, it didn't really matter who was in front of me, Cooper [Cronk] came over to me and Latrell, pretty much said 'it doesn't matter who's in front of you, do what you usually do'. I took that as good advice, went out there and did what I do."
Manu got plenty of assistance from fullback James Tedesco, who chimed into a couple of right-edge tries using his own scintillating speed and quick hands to keep the opposition in two minds.
Tedesco finishes off Roosters classic
"Having Teddy coming around with his speed it's going to be tough to defend as [an opposition] left edge and Teddy's been playing well, giving me nice early ball," Manu said.
"He's always in the right position so I trust him to be there and throw those passes and it's been good the last few weeks."
Of the flick pass to Brett Morris to set up Tedesco's try, he credited the most famous exponent of the move – his Kiwi compatriot, Wests Tigers legend Benji Marshall.
"I've been practising since I was a kid; I used to watch Benji a lot," he added.
Manu plants it down in the corner
"My mates, we've been doing it since we were little. It's a big part of my game, I have to keep working on it and keep getting better.
"It's just instinct really, playing off what I see. If I can get rid of the centre I know the winger's coming in.
"I sort of just read what's in front of me and what they're trying to do … I just felt BMoz outside me and got that pass away but that takes a lot of practice, we practice it a lot at training, the rest is just instinct."