Joseph Manu says getting dropped for last year’s NRL finals series was the best thing for him.After being the Sydney Roosters’ hard luck story of last year’s NRL finals, rising star Joseph Manu is ready to make up for lost time.
The New Zealand native comes into Saturday’s qualifying final against Cronulla in blockbusting form, leading Roosters coach Trent Robinson to declare he has come of age.
Last week the bulldozing centre terrorised Parramatta defenders in the Tri-Colours’ 44-10 win to clinch the minor premiership, carving out 179 metres as well as scoring a first-half try.
The week prior he nearly pulled off one of the tries of the year when he barrelled over three Brisbane defenders before agonisingly being denied by a desperate Darius Boyd cover tackle which forced him to tread on the sideline.
But wind back the clock 12 months ago and Manu was relegated to reserve grade on the eve of September, denying him his first taste of NRL finals football.
Despite playing in the side’s final round win over the Gold Coast, he was overlooked in favour of Ryan Matterson for the club’s finals series.
“I feel like I’ve grown,” Manu said.
“Last year getting dropped was tough but I’ve think it was the best thing for me.
“Just learning a few things that I had to do. This year has been a big year for me and I’m really proud of how far I’ve come.”
Robinson praised Manu following last week’s win over the Eels and he was earlier in the year rewarded with a contract extension until the end of the 2020 season.
Manu has been a grand final specialist coming through the grades at the Roosters – winning titles with their SG Ball and under-20s sides.
Next year there will be heated competition for spots in the Roosters backline with English veteran Ryan Hall and Brett Morris replacing Parramatta-bound Blake Ferguson.
Robinson will have the difficult task of fitting six first-class players – also including James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Daniel Tupou – into five spots.
Manu said he hadn’t considered his place in the team next season but felt like he’d grown as a player this year.
“I feel like I’m a bit more confident there and calling the ball and playing outside awesome players has helped me out for the whole season,” Manu said.
“It’s been a long season and I’ve improved a lot. I’ve still got a lot to improve in my game.”