Weekend Herald - - Sport - David Skip­with

New Ki­wis cen­tre Joseph Manu is still get­ting to know the play­ers around him and is more fa­mil­iar with the man he’ll mark in tonight’s tran­stas­man test against Aus­tralia.

The Syd­ney Roost­ers pre­mier­ship­win­ning young gun will make his Ki­wis de­but at Mt Smart Sta­dium and line up against his club cen­tre part­ner and Kan­ga­roos new­comer La­trell Mitchell.

The Tokoroa-born 22-year-old came through the Roost­ers ju­nior sys­tem to­gether with the NSW State of Ori­gin star be­fore both play­ers broke through to make their NRL de­buts in 2016.

The pair are close mates but Manu is look­ing for­ward to ini­ti­at­ing a notso-friendly ri­valry as the Ki­wis go hunt­ing for their first win over Aus­tralia since 2015.

“We started to­gether over in Aus­tralia in SG Ball [un­der 18s] and have come all the way to the NRL,” said Manu.

“We’ve been train­ing hard to­gether all year and com­pet­ing against each other so I’ll be look­ing for­ward to that and know he will be too. It will be a pretty cool bat­tle and I’ll en­joy it.”

Manu’s rise into the Ki­wis comes af­ter he en­joyed a breakout club sea­son and played a star­ring role for the Roost­ers through­out the play­offs and in last month’s grand fi­nal win over Mel­bourne.

His hard-earned suc­cess comes af­ter he over­came some self-doubts and a be­low-par 2017 sea­son which left him fear­ing he would spend the year stuck in re­serve grade.

“I didn’t have a great sea­son last year and at the start of this sea­son I didn’t even know if I’d make the start­ing 13 for the Roost­ers,” he said.

“To get a pre­mier­ship ring and then be se­lected for the Ki­wis the next day was some­thing I never thought would hap­pen.

“It’s ob­vi­ously a dream come true. Af­ter the GF I was over the moon but now that I’m here I know that I’ve got to do a job for the Ki­wis.

“I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to Satur­day and my main fo­cus is here and on get­ting a cou­ple more wins.”

Ki­wis coach Michael Maguire has been im­pressed with Manu’s ma­tu­rity through­out the build-up and is confident he’ll han­dle the chal­lenge of con­tain­ing Mitchell.

Manu was the quiet-achiever in the Roost­ers back­line but de­clared him­self a rep­re­sen­ta­tive star in the mak­ing when he kept Greg Inglis quiet in the semi­fi­nal win over South Syd­ney, be­fore cross­ing for a first-half try in the de­cider against the Storm.

“He’s a re­ally ma­ture young man. He’s had a great ex­pe­ri­ence with what he’s gone through this year and he’s shown he can step up as he has done ev­ery time he’s been asked,” said Maguire. “This is an­other op­por­tu­nity now for him to show what he’s ca­pa­ble of at in­ter­na­tional level.”

Manu won’t lack for sup­port with “nearly all of Tokoroa” mak­ing the trip up for the oc­ca­sion.

“It’s awe­some to be here in New Zealand and to play here,” he said.

“I’m re­ally happy to play here in front of my fam­ily. It should be good for us and New Zealand rugby league, and all the fans.”

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