With 22 international tries for New Zealand in 29 games, plus more than 150 more for the New Zealand Warriors spanning 13 seasons in Auckland, there is no doubting that Manu Vatuvei’s career to date can only be described as stellar.
A modern day legend of Rugby League certainly doesn’t become available every day so when the opportunity to attract Manu to the Red Devils presented itself, it was one that was too good to turn down.
We spoke to Manu as he prepares for a new chapter in his career, and indeed life. His bags are packed and he is awaiting the post to arrive with the paperwork so he can hop on the plane to Manchester.
“The opportunity to join Salford has come at exactly the right time for me,” Manu told us.
“I am ready for this new challenge and chapter. The Warriors have done a lot for me and my family but when the chance came up to head over to Super League I wanted to take it.
“(Warriors coach) Stephen Kearney knows Marwan well and we spoke a bit about him and what he’s doing at Salford. To be honest, I’m aware of Super League but I only really watch a few games where I know some of the players I used to play with are playing, but I know it’s an exciting, different kind of comp and I just want to experience it.”
Few players have come over from the NRL with such star status, and it is easy to forget that Manu is still only 31, bringings the wealth of big-match experience with them that will help carry Salford forward as they challenge for major honours for the first time in decades.
“I’ve been following Salford for the last few weeks and know how well they are doing. We know all about the Challenge Cup here and I can see how that semi-final against Wigan is going to be huge for the Club and fans. I’ve heard lots of stories about Wembley and hopefully I have an input in the Red Devils picking up the trophy.”
Manu laughed when told the last time Salford got to Wembley was 1969 – “Let’s try and put that right then!”
Moving across to the other side of the world is never easy for a player and he admits that that was one of the first things Ian Watson asked him when they first spoke.
“I talked with Ian on the phone a few weeks back when this all started happening and he wanted to know how I would cope being away from my family. The Warriors are a huge family-orientated Club and I know Salford are too so that will make things easier.
“I am looking for a fresh start and to do my best and I have challenged myself to do that.”
And as for his experiences in the UK?
“I have been over twice before with the Kiwis in 2005 and 2013 and I loved it there. It’s a very different lifestyle and I’m just looking forward to meeting the rest of the team and all the staff at the club..
“I know Junior Sa’u and Lama Tasi so it will be good to play with those guys. It’s really exciting preparing for a different challenge on the other side of the world. I’m waiting every day for the postman for the visa to arrive and then I’ll be over. I can’t wait to get started.”