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A special milestone for Vatuvei

Richard Becht

Try No 128 for Vodafone Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei and a special place in history. Image | www.photosport.co.nz
Try No 128 for Vodafone Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei and a special place in history. Image | www.photosport.co.nz

Vodafone Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei now boasts a first-grade try-scoring feat bettered only by legendary North Sydney and Manly winger Ken Irvine more than 40 years ago.

With his 12th-minute touchdown against Penrith last Sunday, Vatuvei extended his record to 10 tries or more in nine consecutive NRL seasons.

It’s an achievement unmatched by any other player in the game apart from the remarkable Irvine.

With his Penrith four-pointer – giving him 10 in 14 games this year – the 28-year-old Vatuvei lifted his career tally to 128 tries in 185 matches, moving ahead of greats Reg Gasnier and Wendell Sailor on the all-time try-scoring list; Vatuvei now ranks 22nd equal with the only current players ahead of him being Billy Slater (166 tries in 260 matches), Nathan Merritt (154 in 236 games), Brett Stewart (141 in 189 games) and Anthony Minichiello (131 in 290 games).

However, none of those players has been able to match Vatuvei’s consistency or durability as he has stitched together a try-scoring sequence of 10, 10, 16, 13, 20, 12, 12, 16 and 10 (so far) since 2006; but for one more try in 2005 – he had nine in 12 appearances – his run would be 10 seasons.

Irvine stands alone as an utter phenomenon. He’s the only player to top 200 tries – 212 in 236 matches – with Manly’s Steve Menzies well back in second place on 180 while Slater moved into third spot with his 166th try in Melbourne’s loss to St George Illawarra last night.

During his 14 seasons at first-grade level (1959-1973), Irvine’s lowest annual return was 13 and his best 19 in his debut season.

Merritt could mathematically emulate Vatuvei’s achievement having scored 10 tries or more in each of the last eight seasons but he hasn’t been a regular choice for South Sydney this year and has only two tries in 11 games so far.

Now in his 11th season as NRL player, Vatuvei has had some injury issues along the way but none that has sidelined him on a long-term basis.

He’s set to make his 186th NRL appearance for the Vodafone Warriors in their next match against Parramatta at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday, July 12 (7.30pm). Only Stacey Jones (261), Simon Mannering (203) and Logan Swann (195) lie ahead of him. He’s on target to join the 200-game club early in the 2015 season.

Vatuvei averages a try every 1.44 games, a strike rate bettered by few in the game.

For a player operating exclusively as a winger into his late 20s, it says even more about his ability that his try-scoring average is more impressive in the second half of his career. After scoring 58 tries in his first 94 games from 2004-2009 (a try every 1.62 games) he has upped the tempo with 70 tries in his 91 matches from 2010 to the present day (a try every 1.30 games).

 

MANU VATUVEI – BREAKDOWN

Year                 Games              Tries

2004                 5                      0

2005                 12                    9

2006                 18                    10

2007                 23                    10

2008                 17                    16

2009                 19                    13

2010                 19                    20

2011                 19                    12

2012                 20                    12

2013                 19                    16

2014                 14                    10

                        185                  128