Rugby league hard

Manu with his son, Che.

Manu with his son, Che.

Manu Weepu has moved to the big smoke to chase his dream of playing professional rugby league.

His break came this year when he joined the Auckland-based Warriors NSW Cup team, and recently he represented NZ Māori Residents in the Queen’s Birthday Weekend game against Auckland in Rotorua.

The 29-year-old, who is a cousin of former All Black Piri Weepu, says it was a privilege playing for NZ Māori Residents side and he is striving to make the line-up for another of the team’s matches later this year.

“The game was awesome. Meeting all the boys and being in the environment was pretty cool and getting a chance to get to know them all,” he says.

Manu (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāti Waewae) and his twin brother Wiremu grew up at the Arahura Pā on the West Coast. Wiremu later played for the Brisbane Broncos and then Penrith Panthers, although he didn’t play first grade, he won two age-group championships with the Panthers.

Manu, who players hooker, stayed in New Zealand and played in the Bartercard Cup for the Wellington Orcas and then won a title with the Mt Albert Lions. He later represented the West Coast in the Heartland Rugby Championship before moving to Christchurch and playing league with the Halswell Hornets.

Manu says that the rugby league scene in Auckland is extremely competitive and everyone has the same goal – to play in a National Rugby League (NRL) team.

“It would be amazing to play NRL one day but if not at least I would have played the best footy that I can,” he says.

Training for the sport takes up much of his time. “I train twice a week with my club (Mount Albert) and I train once or twice a week with the NSW Warriors Cup squad and on top of that I do my own training. It’s not really that hard when you love what you’re doing. I really enjoy it all and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Before moving to Auckland, Manu lived in Christchurch. Just last year, he was injured during a club final with the Canterbury Bulls.

“I’ve just come back from an injury and I’m pretty green so I would like to get a few games under my belt. I ruptured two ligaments in my right foot and tore my left calf during the during the same game.”

Now, healed and fit, Manu is rearing to go and says he is looking forward to whatever opportunities arise from playing for the Warriors NSW Cup team.

“At some stage we will get a chance to play depending on performances and injury. I am pretty stoked with the opportunity because some of these guys have been here for a while.

“It’s wicked and real professional – the coaches (for the Warriors NSW Cup team) put so much detail into the small things.”

By day Manu is a qualified builder and hopes long-term to study towards a Diploma in Construction Management and live on the West Coast with his son Che. For now he is going to continue to seek out opportunities in Auckland and play good footy.