Born: 24 August, 1988 – Auckland
Test record: 6 Tests (2016) – 0 points
Tours: 2016 Four Nations
Parramatta back-row enforcer Manu Ma’u played six Tests for New Zealand in 2016 before returning to the Mate Ma’a Tonga fold for the Pacific nation’s watershed World Cup run.
A product of St Paul’s College who played junior football for Richmond Rovers and Marist Saints, Ma’u turned his life around after a stint in prison for gang-related violence and turned out for Auckland Vulcans, the Warriors’ NSW Cup feeder team.
Following a lengthy battle (due to his criminal conviction) to secure a visa to move to Australia, the reformed Ma’u joined Parramatta in 2013 and played for Wentworthville Magpies in the NSW Cup. An NRL debut came in the opening round of 2014 but a broken arm brought a fine rookie season to a premature end.
Ma’u represented Tonga against Samoa and Cook Islands in 2015, but the bruising 27-year-old accepted a spot in the Kiwis’ second-row for the 2016 Anzac Test. The Eels’ Player of the Year in 2016, Ma’u featured in all five Tests of New Zealand’s post-season campaign – a one-off match against Australia in Perth and four matches in the England-hosted Four Nations.
Ma’u played NRL finals football for the first time in 2017 and was one of several Kiwi reps to pledge their allegiance to Tonga ahead of the World Cup. He played in all five matches as Tonga stormed in the semi-finals.
Farewelling Parramatta after 115 games at the end of 2019, Ma’u was part of Tonga Invitational’s outstanding pack that underpinned historic victories over Great Britain and Australia.
The veteran spent three seasons with Super League outfit Hull FC before linking with Catalans Dragons in 2023.