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Willie Manu wants silverware at St Helens
MORE than a few Saints fans are licking their lips in anticipation of the destructive attacking potential of the club’s new second row pairing in the season ahead.
New recruit Willie Manu, arguably one of the stand-out performers in Super League last term, will team up with Saints’ player of the year Sia Soliola in the new look back row.
Although different in styles, in tandem the duo are expected to cause defences a few headaches in the campaign ahead, especially when Tony Puletua and Jon Wilkin are thrown into the mix as well.
Manu said: “There are a few of us in there bringing something different to the table and that is what makes it so exciting.
“Let’s see what we can do when we all get out there at the same time.”
The 32-year-old Tongan international spent six years with Hull, and he explained it was something of a wrench to leave the city where he was settled with his wife and three children.
But with his family now settled in town and school, Manu is now hoping that his playing reasons for making the shift are vindicated.
“It was hard to leave Hull because I had been there for so long but sometimes you make a decision because you want a change.
“I have been happy with the decision I made and everything has been running smoothly so far.
“Now I have signed I have just got to put my head down,” he said.
The allure of silverware and the chance to pop a medal or two in his drawer before the end of his career was a big factor in encouraging Manu to make the switch.
“St Helens have always been up there with the top teams so that is a major factor because I haven’t won a trophy before and there is a good chance of doing that here.”
One of a trio of new signings, with Alex Walmsley joining from Batley and Jordan Turner also coming on board from Hull, Manu gave an insight in what his former teammate can bring.
“Jordan is a good young player who has shown what he can do. He is big for a centre and had got some pace and some skills.
He is a big athlete, strong and fast wherever he plays he will bring something to the table. He is only young and learning every year,” he said.
Of course, it is not just on the field where the personnel have changed – new boss Nathan Brown and assistant Jamahl Lolesi, who joins Keiron Cunningham in the coaching room, will also bring a different outlook.
Manu, a star performer for the Exiles against England last year, said: “Nathan is a really good coach and everyone has bought into his ideas.
“Although St Helens did really well last year and really stuck together as a team, Nathan is tweaking things without changing the whole structure and everyone is happy with that.”
One of the fittest players in the game these days, Manu explains the way he looks after himself these days and the joy he gets from simply the game are the keys to his form and durability.
“I really enjoy my rugby people commented on my form not dropping at Hull after signing for Saints – but you can’t play half hearted.
“A lot of things could happen, you could get injured and next year may not come. You never know what is around the corner – I love the game but play every one as if it is my last because you never know what could happen.
“I am lucky to be able to play the game that I love – and get paid for it so I don’t take anything for granted.
“I didn’t miss any games last year, and have felt fitter and better the last three years and am enjoying myself.
“I feel better now and am playing longer minutes than I was five or six years ago. It all comes down to looking after yourself, if you don’t it becomes harder to stay fit and healthy,” he said.
Manu’s first outing in the red vee comes on Friday in the friendly against Huddersfield at Langtree Park – a game he is looking forward to.
“It is important to blast off a few cobwebs and get your timing right, so it means when the season starts you are firing and ready to go and have no excuses.
“That is what I’ll be using it for,” Manu said.