How ex-Wigan Warriors boss helped develop future “icon” of rugby league as development in UK also key

Sydney Roosters had three of their stars in the Rugby League World Cup semi-finals all playing fullback with skipper James Tedesco leading Australia to glory, “generational talent” Joseph Suaali’i took Samoa to the final and Joey Manu who won the Golden Boot for his displays in a New Zealand shirt.

All stood out but NZRL General Manager of Football Motu Tony believes Manu is on his way to becoming “an icon of the sport” as he revealed the “master stroke” from ex-Wigan Warriors boss Michael Maguire which helped him get to this level alongside his development in internationals in the UK.

“We took a younger version of Joey to the UK in 2018 and the signs were there,” Tony told SENZ Mornings.

“Then since 2018 he’s won a couple of Premierships, he’s won Dally M this year – centre – he’s just built off what we saw in 2018.

“Moving him into fullback was a master stroke from (Kiwis coach) Michael Maguire, which he did against Tonga in the mid-year Test and he ran for over 400 metres.

“So he’s definitely on his way to becoming not just one of the great rugby league players but obviously, I think, one of the great Kiwis. (We’re) very lucky to have him in our side.”

“He could play anywhere in that backline really,” Tony added.

“Maybe (not in the) halves but you wouldn’t write it off against Joey because he’s that skilled.

“He showed against Tonga that he acts like another forward when you’re coming out of your yardage and then in football, he’s another playmaker.

“So he does it all and he’s got size and he’s strong so he’s the complete package, Joey.”

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