05 June, 2011
|Deacon Manu - flesh and bone and a bit of metal. |
Deacon Manu’s involvement in last Friday’s national trials was restricted to the sideline, with the Llanelli Scarlets’ prop preserving his fixed arm for the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) tournament.
The former Chiefs and New Zealand Maori prop broke his arm in December last year and since then has been on rehabilitation’s long and mending road. However, even away from the field, Manu, whose mother hails from Kadavu, is keen to be involved with national team preparations from the outset.
“The Fijian team is a special team and I think in a lot of ways it’s more than a team, it’s a family,” Manu said.
“Obviously I keep in touch with some of the guys through things like Facebook, but being here is really good, it’s an awesome experience coming back home where the support is huge, it’s great.”
The latest injury for the six foot, 118kg prop has meant a metal plate being inserted into his right arm and while it’s kept him out of the game for six months it has given him time to work on his conditioning, allowing the rest of his body to heal and allowing Manu to focus on fitness and then, as the right arm healed, his strength.
“I’ve been working pretty hard actually, they run a tight ship up in my club so I’ve managed to hit personal bests in my strength testing and fitness wise I’m probably in the best condition this time of the year than I’ve ever been in. Obviously not getting the knocks and collisions of the game has helped dramatically with that so I’m very pleased with where I’m at in that regard.”
While some players may worry about playing with a metal plate in their arm Manu takes it in his stride, and no wonder, he’s been in this same situation three times previously, and now walks around with a collection of four metal plates holding together various parts of his body.
“The plates are just four mementoes for when I’m older,” Manu says with a wry smile.
“Injuries are part and parcel of rugby and the plate in my arm will stay there for at least the rest of this year but when you start playing you forget about all your injuries and play on instinct and start playing your natural game.”
While the risk of injury holds no fear for the mild mannered prop he is aware his body will not go on forever which is why, the forward thinking forward (ahem!), ensured he completed his studies at Waikato University before turning to rugby as a fulltime profession.
“The reason why I went to Waikato was to study, that was the only real reason, and rugby just came along so I was fortunate enough to really be able to do both at the same time and when I finished my studies I turned professional.”
And he now urges all young players pursuing rugby as a profession to do the same.
“I think it’s hugely important for young players to realize you can’t last forever in rugby no matter how much you want to. No matter how much the mind is willing the body will pack it in one day and sometimes it’s sooner than later so it’s important to have something else after.”
Manu will remain with the recently selected PNC squad for the next two weeks before returning to Wales for a final medical check-up and then returning for the PNC tournament.