Rugby League

Warriors winger Manu 'The Beast' Vatuvei puts Canberra Raiders through hell

He's put the Raiders through hell in their past three encounters and the numbers of The Beast, Manu Vatuvei, prove just how dominant the New Zealand Warriors have been against Canberra in recent seasons.

But Canberra's five-eighth recruit Blake Austin says those defeats are history, claiming the new-look Raiders carry no mental baggage from three consecutive 50-point hidings to the Warriors.

Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei celebrates one of his three tries against the Canberra Raiders on August 3, 2014.
Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei celebrates one of his three tries against the Canberra Raiders on August 3, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

The Raiders have stuck with the same team that beat the Cronulla Sharks in their NRL season-opener, although winger Jordan Rapana has had a scan on a hamstring strain and will need to prove his fitness before Sunday's first home match, against the Warriors at Canberra Stadium.

Rapana is a vital part of Canberra's game-plan this season, which has been to beef-up their wingers and fullback and create more powerful momentum from the back.

Canberra Raiders, humiliated 54-18 at home against the New Zealand Warriors in August 2014.
Canberra Raiders, humiliated 54-18 at home against the New Zealand Warriors in August 2014. Photo: Melissa Adams

Should he take his place, Rapana will line up against Vatuvei, the 107kg winger known as The Beast, who has scored eight tries, including two hat-tricks, in his past three matches against the Raiders.

The Beast hasn't been alone.

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In their last three encounters, the Warriors have out-pointed the Raiders a total of 158-46, capped by one of Canberra's worst-ever defeats at home – a 54-18 loss in August last year. The Raiders have conceded 28 tries – an average of more than nine a game.

The Raiders have injected new blood in key positions this year, led by England representative hooker Josh Hodgson, Austin, winger Sisa Waqa, along with forwards Sia Soliola and Frank-Paul Nu'uausala.

Rather than be daunted by Canberra's woeful record against the Warriors, Austin said he wasn't even aware of it.

"There hasn't been any talk of that," Austin said. "What's happened in the past we've brushed aside for the moment and we're just looking at what we've got here in our squad,"

Austin felt his halves combination with 22-year-old halfback Mitch Cornish would develop in time, but the pair face an immediate test against the man rated the world's best player last year, halfback Shaun Johnson.

Johnson has also terrorised the Raiders. Despite missing their last encounter, Johnson scored 26 points in each of the previous two games against Canberra.

"He's the golden boot winner, the best player in the world last year," Austin said. "They had a loss last week so he'll be coming to Canberra to have a good game and we're going to have to be on our toes."

The Raiders have maintained the mobile pack they selected for round one, retaining Australian Kangaroos representative Josh Papalii at prop.

Nu'uausala, a former New Zealand international prop, expected Papalii to stay there.

A Warriors junior, Nu'uausala said it was crucial Canberra won the forwards battle to negate the impact of Warriors backs Johnson, Vatuvei and English representative fullback Sam Tomkins.

"That's the main strength is their forwards, we have to aim up and play to our potential and make sure we control and contain their forwards," Nu'uausala said. "If they do get a roll on it will be pretty hard for us to stop it."

"I always love playing against the Warriors ... I always have a bit of passion playing against them, it brings out the best in me."

Raiders woes against Warriors

Lost 54-18 (3 August 2014) - Manu Vatuvei 3 tries

Lost 54-12 (10 May 2014) - Shaun Johnson 2 tries and 26 pts, Manu Vatuvei 2 tries

Lost 50-16 (31 August 2013) - Shaun Johnson 3 tries and 26 pts, Manu Vatuvei 3 tries

Total losses 158-46 in 3 matches