Manly 26 Warriors 20
The Big Choke
It looked suspiciously like one. It smelt suspiciously like one. But was it really a choke? Well, yes, to a certain extent. And big? Well, maybe it wasn’t that big, just a tiny wee one instead.
Sure enough, it was the usual suspects lining up to pile on error after error.
Manu Vatuvei knocked on the familiar door of butterfingered calamities; it opened and welcomed him in with open arms. Why the winger has these occasional off days is anyone’s guess. It’s not as if he doesn’t play well under pressure on numerous other occasions
And on big the biggest of stages, too.
So, Manu, what goes through that head of yours?
Handling pressure is simply about believing in one’s ability to execute what one is trying to achieve. That being the case, why can Vatuvei do this sometimes, but not others? If anyone out there has the key to unlocking the mind of this mystery of a man, then please, please, come forward and enlighten us all.
He wasn’t the only one, though. Kevin Locke had the odd brain snap, too. You know the ones, when a team is just beginning to gain momentum, and then the likes of Locke get pushed out over the sideline on the first tackle in what was an avoidable occurrence.
Funnily enough, all the negatives are, in a bizarre way, what give us plenty to be positive about.
Up against the reigning premiers, the Warriors were far from their best.
There was the abysmal ball handling that wouldn’t be acceptable in the under 12’s.
Doesn’t sound particularly positive does it? But when a side can play poorly, be without three frontline staff in the form of Michael Luck, Jacob Lillyman and Sam Rapira through pre-season injuries, and lose centre, Jerome Ropati, within the first thirty minutes of the encounter, and still lose by a mere six points, then all is not lost.
After Ropati had departed the scene, this left Coach Brian McLennan with two centres on debut in the form of Ben Henry and Konrad Hurrell. That they both performed admirably bodes well for the future. Hurrell, in particular, seemed intent on doing an impersonation of a one man wrecking machine. Many were the time that he took three or four Manly hangers-on for a five – sometimes ten - metre trip as he surged his way along field. This is a twenty year old debutant. A star has been introduced to the Rugby League world. Now, just watch him grow.
Over the final fifty minutes the Warriors outscored Manly by twenty points to ten. So, they have the attacking capacity within them to create havoc.
Back in the deep dark recesses of time more commonly known as the 1980’s, a time when they made real music, there was a musician by the name of David Bowie. He released a song by the name of “let’s dance”. When writing this song, he must surely have foreseen the emergence of Shaun Johnson as a superstar. For the halfback with the talent to die for could put Bowie and Fred Astaire to shame, such was the nifty footwork he produced to put Vatuvei over for the Warriors first try of match. Then, then, he came up with moves that were so fleet of foot in scoring a try of his own, that if you were to witness them, you would be forgiven for thinking that you had been in a desert for forty days and forty nights and were suffering delusional paranoia. It could not have possibly occurred.
Come on Shaun, admit it, it was a trick, wasn’t it? Oh come on, no one really does this sort of thing.
He may be a young man, but, all the same, he’s a big man with a big engine who is not one to shirk a big workload, as well as appearing to have a mind that fails to see limitations and will allow him to expand his young career into something much bigger.
Without fear Lousi rampaged his way through this round one match-up, making hit-up after hit-up, tackle after tackle and always coming back for more.
And you can’t ask for any more than that.