Vatuvei mentally strong for Eels clash - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Vatuvei mentally strong for Eels clash

05/09/2008 03:41:54 PM Comments (0)

Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei heads into Saturday's must-win NRL match against Parramatta in a much stronger mental state than his last nightmarish visit to the Eels' home ground.

Vatuvei endured a horror evening when the New Zealand side last visited Parramatta Stadium in round one last year, as he crumbled under the pressure in an error-riddled performance.

This season has been blighted by injury for the big winger, but he has hardly missed a beat since his return to action a month ago.

He has eaten up the metres in the past four rounds and chimed in with three tries over the past two weeks to take his year's tally to 11 from 13 appearances.

And his mistake rate, which has made him a target for opposition kickers since last year's display, has dropped as well, with no errors in last Sunday's win over Penrith.

Vatuvei has no fears about going back to the western Sydney venue, even though he knows he is going to have kicks aimed his way again.

Among those who have helped him out are veteran prop Ruben Wiki, who will be playing his 308th NRL match and his last if the Warriors' play-off ambitions are snuffed out by a loss to the Eels.

"He's given me a lot," Vatuvei said of Wiki's input during the former Kiwis skipper's four years at the Warriors.

"He always says, `if you make a few mistakes, keep your head up' and you just get motivation from that."

Meanwhile, club chief executive Wayne Scurrah was confident fullback Wade McKinnon's suspension for allegedly spitting at a touch judge had not deflected the team's focus.

The former Eel was suspended on Wednesday night for three matches and the Warriors were denied leave to appeal.

Lance Hohaia, who filled in well when McKinnon was out for the first five months of the season with a knee injury, will be back at fullback.

Scurrah said the club had tried to keep the judicial issue away from the coaching staff and players as much as possible.

"It's important we do that because this game is critical to us," he said.

"We trained all week with Lance at fullback. We're carrying on with business as usual the best we can."

The Warriors' poor for-and-against record means they need to beat Parramatta and hope Canberra or Newcastle lose to sneak into the eight.

The Eels meanwhile still have feint hope of reaching the play-offs but will need to thrash the Warriors and hope the Knights go down heavily to Brisbane.

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