Big deal: Why Ryan’s wary of Warriors’ Manu on a mission Glenn Jackson
September 13, 2011
THESE are the big games, and in big games, Beau Ryan relishes big opponents. And they don’t come much bigger than the Warriors monolith, Manu Vatuvei. What Ryan, the Wests Tigers winger - and a slight one when compared with his opponent on Friday night - might not relish so much is facing Vatuvei so soon after a nightmare.
Vatuvei had one of those nights against Brisbane last Saturday, spilling high ball after high ball, to the point of being embarrassed so much he felt compelled to apologise to his followers on Twitter. But Ryan also knows that Vatuvei generally follows up his shockers with what we expect more from him - destruction.
‘‘What’s not scary about Manu?’’ Ryan said yesterday. ‘‘I don’t want to say too much to get him riled up, but he’s a big, strong aggressive guy. That’s what you play footy for, to test yourself against these guys. Like they say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Hopefully I can get over him or under him, and do anything to try and stop him. He’s a fantastic player, and a great character in the game.’’
In his position, Ryan feels there is no one tougher. ‘‘I love playing against him,’’ Ryan said. ''He’s sometimes unstoppable. Obviously when we played him over there [in Auckland in round 14], he was at his best and scored a try, and I was lucky enough to get one at the end of the game. Leading into a finals series, you want to play guys like Manu and Aku Uate. It’s going to be a big test for me. I love playing ‘The Beast’ because it brings out the best in me. Hopefully I can get on top of him.
‘‘I’ve played against him a few times, and we’ve both shared the points. I love playing him; he usually gets a try against me, or I try and get one against him. I’ll definitely have some bruises on Saturday.’’
So what to do about Manu? The danger, clearly, is getting too worked up about whether he is going to self-destruct or conversely destroy you. Tigers skipper Robbie Farah said it was likely his side would test out Vatuvei’s fidgety fingers on Friday night - within reason.
‘‘He had an off night,’’ Farah said. ‘‘Brisbane tested him with the high ball, and he came up with a few drops. It might be something we do, but we’re not going to base our whole game plan on going out there and trying to target Manu. He’s a quality player so he’ll bounce back. Any player who makes an error, it plays on their mind … but they get a second chance now, and I’m sure especially Manu will be wanting to make up for that.’’
Tigers coach Tim Sheens, for his part, will be doing exactly what Vatuvei will not - treading carefully. ‘‘I’m not focusing on Manu’s game,’’ he said. ''The big fella can still play. We’ve got to look at it as a team - our team versus their team - and not go looking to isolate one player.
‘‘Next week he comes out and has a brilliant game and the whole thing falls down. We’ve still got to look at them as a team, and work at our strengths and their weaknesses. Nothing is going to tell me that he won’t come out and catch everything and score three tries - that’s what we’ve got to be careful about.’’