live Infotainment Factory: Why enforcer feels he owes Eels a premiership

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Thursday, 5 September 2019

Why enforcer feels he owes Eels a premiership


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Manu Ma'u isn't sure what he'll feel when the time comes to take his Parramatta jersey off for the last time sometime in the next month.

"Let's hope it's at ANZ Stadium after the Grand Final," he tells Wide World of Sports.

"It's going to be strange, I may even sleep in it for the entire night!"

Freddy & Joey's Tips: Round 25

It might be hard to find a more loyal clubman than the 31-year-old, who departs the NRL at the end of this season for a career in the English Super League.

While 112 first grade games for Parramatta doesn't put him in the same league as Eels stalwarts like 330-game veteran Nathan Hindmarsh, the second-rower makes it clear he owes the club plenty.

A well-documented stint in prison meant he didn't make his NRL debut until the relatively late age of 25, and when it came to deciding where he'd play in the future, Ma'u couldn't imagine playing in the NRL wearing anything other than the blue and gold.

That loyalty is why he's heading overseas, with Hull offering him a lucrative two-year deal that was too good to turn down, despite interest from the Eels and other NRL clubs.

Ma'u says the decision to head to the UK was definitely a "family decision," but admits breaking the news to coach Brad Arthur and the rest of the squad was tough.

"I'm not too sure where I'd be without Parramatta. I'm just happy I got to play in front of the fans here, and I got to represent my country, I got to play for New Zealand and Tonga," Ma'u said.

"I've done a lot, and if it wasn't for Parramatta I'd have nothing.

"Brad gave me my debut, and that's something I'll remember forever."

Manu Ma'u has experienced ups and downs at the Eels.

Arthur's persistence in bringing Ma'u to the Eels proved a life-saver for the big forward, who spent 22 months in prison following a brawl in Auckland when he was a teenager.

His criminal history meant he couldn't get a visa to play in Australia, putting any hope of an NRL deal well and truly on the backburner.

But Arthur worked tirelessly to clear the way for Ma'u to come to Australia, and the rising star was determined to put his past behind him.

"Hopefully there's a premiership to be won this year, it would be the icing on the cake," Ma'u said.

"But I'm going to take it week-by-week, and embrace the time I've got left with the boys here at Parramatta."

According to Eels playmaker Mitchell Moses, the squad is desperate to send Ma'u out on a high note.

"Yeah, 100 per cent. Manu's been here since 2014, and he's been such an important player in the squad," Moses told Wide World of Sports.

"We're going to miss him next year for sure, he's been one of our best players in the back part of this season.

"We're going to have a big hole to fill when he's gone, but to be honest it's pretty hard to replace Manu. We're definitely keen to send him out on a positive note.

"He doesn't say much, but he leads with his actions on the field. It's the little things he does, especially for the younger blokes in the side. If you need someone to speak to, he's always there.

"He's a big asset for any club."

Ma'u has had a roller-coaster ride at Parramatta, with semi-final appearances balanced out with a wooden spoon in 2018.

He admits that the squad needed a reset over the off-season, to put the disappointment of last year behind them.

Manu Ma'u has played a big role in the Eels' success in 2019.

"We spoke about it over the summer. It was important for us to change the mentality, and improve on what happened last year," Ma'u said.

"It's been good so far this year, but the big prizes are still ahead of us."

One of the keys to the Eels' success this season has been the return to their spiritual home at Parramatta, with the side enjoying a 7-2 record at the new Bankwest Stadium.

It followed two seasons at ANZ Stadium, while the ground was rebuilt.

"It means a lot to be back here," Ma'u said.

"We've got our home back. Being at ANZ, it didn't feel like our home ground.

"But we're back in 'Parra-dise' and it's been great."

When Ma'u is reminded that the Eels last won the premiership in 1986, the year the old Parramatta Stadium opened, he notes that it would be nice to christen the new ground with a premiership.

And if the Eels players gather at the ground with the premiership trophy the day after this year's premiership decider, Ma'u won't be hard to spot.

He'll be the one still proudly wearing his jersey from the night before.

Manu Ma'u isn't sure what he'll feel when the time comes to take his Parramatta jersey off for the last time sometime in the next month.

"Let's hope it's at ANZ Stadium after the Grand Final," he tells Wide World of Sports.

"It's going to be strange, I may even sleep in it for the entire night!"

Freddy & Joey's Tips: Round 25

It might be hard to find a more loyal clubman than the 31-year-old, who departs the NRL at the end of this season for a career in the English Super League.

While 112 first grade games for Parramatta doesn't put him in the same league as Eels stalwarts like 330-game veteran Nathan Hindmarsh, the second-rower makes it clear he owes the club plenty.

A well-documented stint in prison meant he didn't make his NRL debut until the relatively late age of 25, and when it came to deciding where he'd play in the future, Ma'u couldn't imagine playing in the NRL wearing anything other than the blue and gold.

That loyalty is why he's heading overseas, with Hull offering him a lucrative two-year deal that was too good to turn down, despite interest from the Eels and other NRL clubs.

Ma'u says the decision to head to the UK was definitely a "family decision," but admits breaking the news to coach Brad Arthur and the rest of the squad was tough.

"I'm not too sure where I'd be without Parramatta. I'm just happy I got to play in front of the fans here, and I got to represent my country, I got to play for New Zealand and Tonga," Ma'u said.

"I've done a lot, and if it wasn't for Parramatta I'd have nothing.

"Brad gave me my debut, and that's something I'll remember forever."

Manu Ma'u has experienced ups and downs at the Eels.

Arthur's persistence in bringing Ma'u to the Eels proved a life-saver for the big forward, who spent 22 months in prison following a brawl in Auckland when he was a teenager.

His criminal history meant he couldn't get a visa to play in Australia, putting any hope of an NRL deal well and truly on the backburner.

But Arthur worked tirelessly to clear the way for Ma'u to come to Australia, and the rising star was determined to put his past behind him.

"Hopefully there's a premiership to be won this year, it would be the icing on the cake," Ma'u said.

"But I'm going to take it week-by-week, and embrace the time I've got left with the boys here at Parramatta."

According to Eels playmaker Mitchell Moses, the squad is desperate to send Ma'u out on a high note.

"Yeah, 100 per cent. Manu's been here since 2014, and he's been such an important player in the squad," Moses told Wide World of Sports.

"We're going to miss him next year for sure, he's been one of our best players in the back part of this season.

"We're going to have a big hole to fill when he's gone, but to be honest it's pretty hard to replace Manu. We're definitely keen to send him out on a positive note.

"He doesn't say much, but he leads with his actions on the field. It's the little things he does, especially for the younger blokes in the side. If you need someone to speak to, he's always there.

"He's a big asset for any club."

Ma'u has had a roller-coaster ride at Parramatta, with semi-final appearances balanced out with a wooden spoon in 2018.

He admits that the squad needed a reset over the off-season, to put the disappointment of last year behind them.

Manu Ma'u has played a big role in the Eels' success in 2019.

"We spoke about it over the summer. It was important for us to change the mentality, and improve on what happened last year," Ma'u said.

"It's been good so far this year, but the big prizes are still ahead of us."

One of the keys to the Eels' success this season has been the return to their spiritual home at Parramatta, with the side enjoying a 7-2 record at the new Bankwest Stadium.

It followed two seasons at ANZ Stadium, while the ground was rebuilt.

"It means a lot to be back here," Ma'u said.

"We've got our home back. Being at ANZ, it didn't feel like our home ground.

"But we're back in 'Parra-dise' and it's been great."

When Ma'u is reminded that the Eels last won the premiership in 1986, the year the old Parramatta Stadium opened, he notes that it would be nice to christen the new ground with a premiership.

And if the Eels players gather at the ground with the premiership trophy the day after this year's premiership decider, Ma'u won't be hard to spot.

He'll be the one still proudly wearing his jersey from the night before.

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