Tele­vi­sion skit on play­ers’

Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - By Michael Burgess By Grant Chap­man

For one of the first times in his long War­riors ca­reer, it feels like Si­mon Man­ner­ing has al­most had enough. Enough of the losses, the set­backs, the frus­tra­tions. Enough of the seem­ingly end­less cy­cle of de­spair and enough of putting his body on the line for so lit­tle re­ward.

For the past six years, there have gen­er­ally been two tru­isms about the War­riors.

The first is that Man­ner­ing al­ways turns up, force of will get­ting him though a solid 80-minute per­for­mance ev­ery week, and the sec­ond is that too many of his team­mates too of­ten don’t.

Man­ner­ing, who will be a key player against the Sea Ea­gles to­day, is far from per­fect, but he’s the ul­ti­mate com­peti­tor.

Had the War­riors achieved more suc­cess in re­cent times, he would be held in sim­i­lar re­gard to Richie McCaw.

He’s al­most cer­tain to be named War­riors Player of the Year for the fifth time in seven sea­sons, which re­flects both his re­mark­able con­sis­tency and the lack of grit and am­bi­tion among his team-mates.

The 30-year-old al­ways puts the team first but you won­der how much more he can give, and how many more times he can watch play­ers around him ben­e­fit from his ef­forts with­out hav­ing the de­sire and for­ti­tude to match it with their own.

“We are in a team sport but it is very much in­di­vid­ual as well,” Man­ner­ing told the Her­ald on Rugby league’s Maori and Pa­cific Is­land com­mu­nity is seething at con­tin­ued in­dif­fer­ence to their cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly the mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tion of names by NRL broad­cast­ers.

The lat­est in­ci­dent oc­curred on the Fox Sports Matty Johns Show this week, when hosts quizzed chil­dren on the “fun­ni­est name in the NRL”.

As the kids strug­gled to ar­tic­u­late mainly Poly­ne­sian names, but prob­a­bly still do­ing a bet­ter job than most pro­fes­sional com­men­ta­tors, their par­ents and show hosts were in hys­ter­ics.

The play­ers in­volved and their Sun­day. “You have got to want to do your part for the team. I’m not say­ing that is the case here but for sure there are things that take longer to stick with some play­ers than oth­ers and I haven’t got an an­swer for it.”

Man­ner­ing came through a dif­fer­ent era, a dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tion. It was be­fore the so­cial me­dia craze, be­fore the un­der-20 com­pe­ti­tion and be­fore the hype and adu­la­tion that seemed to be thrown on ev­ery new young player.

“Maybe it’s easy to get caught up in things but you can lose per­cep­tion of how lucky we are,” said Man­ner­ing.

“Play­ing pro­fes­sional sport for the only NRL team in New Zealand, you can get caught for­get­ting what po­si­tion you are in. We are all so for­tu­nate to be here.”

Man­ner­ing doesn’t say much pub­licly — even in his six years as cap­tain, he wasn’t that ef­fu­sive — but he has a strong pres­ence be­hind the scenes and what he does of­fer makes a lot of sense and should be con­tained in a man­ual for as­pir­ing NRL play­ers, and par­tic­u­larly young War­riors.

“As a team, we are in­con­sis­tent, and as in­di­vid­u­als, we are in­con­sis­tent,” said Man­ner­ing. “In the NRL, that should be your pri­mary ob­jec­tive, to be con­sis­tent and the dif­fer­ence be­tween your best game and worst game is close.”

“It’s not about how many tries you can score, or all that other stuff, or how good you can be. It’s about get­ting the win each week, whether it is pretty or ugly, it doesn’t mat­ter. It is dis­ap­point­ing that hasn’t been a com­mon theme and we need to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where con­sis­tency is the norm.” fam­i­lies are less amused.

“It seems to be that peo­ple are not learn­ing, they’re not mak­ing change and find­ing so­lu­tions,” for­mer Ki­wis and Samoan in­ter­na­tional Nigel Va­gana told New­stalk ZB’s Tony Veitch.

“It’s a shame that stuff like this is still hap­pen­ing.”

Va­gana, who is New Zealand Rugby League’s wel­fare and ed­u­ca­tion man­ager, ad­mit­ted he was dis­ap­pointed and of­fended by the show, but while he stopped short of us­ing the word “racism”, oth­ers haven’t.

Ana Ta­gatese, wife of Cronulla Sharks and Samoa prop Sam Ta­gatese, took to so­cial me­dia to

Man­ner­ing is al­ways held up as the as­pi­ra­tional ex­am­ple of the kind of at­ti­tude and men­tal tough­ness that should per­me­ate through the club.

But there was no se­cret for­mula. He came to the game late, not play­ing league un­til he was a teenager, and while his rise was swift, it was far from smooth.

“It’s about be­ing thrown in the deep end and see­ing if you can swim,” said Man­ner­ing. “At the start, I was al­ways in the deep end, I hadn’t played much. I was play­ing against men in the Barter­card Cup — think­ing ‘shit, I’m out of my depth’ — but then you get used to that.

“Then com­ing up here and train­ing, that was a step in it­self, then you adapt to that. Then play­ing NRL.

“Think­ing back now I was nowhere near ready to play first grade but I had an op­por­tu­nity and I tried to do ev­ery­thing away from the field to make sure when I am on the field, I could do a job. I man­aged to just sur­vive that first year.”

Man­ner­ing has thrived since and been one of the play­ers who has held the team to­gether this past decade. But his long ca­reer (278 games) means he feels the hard times more than most.

“It’s frus­trat­ing for us as a club and our sup­port­ers over the last six years and what they have seen,” said Man­ner­ing.

“As a player, I’m so dis­ap­pointed for them. We know they cop so much shit for sup­port­ing us and we are still down there [out­side the eight]. That’s who I feel sorry for the most, not my­self or my team-mates. It’s the ones who turn up ev­ery week and are there to cheer you on and we don’t de­liver.” ex­press her alarm at how their name had been de­rided.

“As a mother of two Samoan daugh­ters, it is vi­tal that I teach them to be proud of their cul­ture and the ori­gin of their sur­name,” she posted on Face­book.

“CA­SUAL RACISM is not ok and I do not want my daugh­ter, who goes to school, to have to tol­er­ate it. I don’t want her to go to school and have other kids think­ing that it is ok to laugh at or mock her sur­name.”

Va­gana told Veitch this was an is­sue that needed ad­dress­ing at the high­est lev­els, since 46 per cent of play­ers through the NRL have Pa­cific Is­land or Maori origins.

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