Born: 22 January, 1987 – Wellington
Test record: 14 Tests (2008-11) – 4 tries (16 points)
Tours: 2008 World Cup, 2010 Four Nations, 2011 Four Nations
Dynamic Melbourne Storm back-rower Sika Manu played 14 Tests for the Kiwis from 2008-11, before representing Tonga from Penrith Panthers and Hull FC.
The Randwick Kingfishers product played for the 2004 Junior Kiwis, subsequently earning a contract with the Storm. Manu played for the Norths Devils side that won back-to-back Brisbane Colts premierships in 2005-06 and was blooded by Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy in 2007.
The 21-year-old exploded as one of the most impressive young forwards in the game in 2008, featuring in 24 of the Storm’s 28 matches with his powerful ball-running and stinging defence. A place in Melbourne Storm folklore beckoned when he jolted the ball free in a massive hit on Brisbane’s Ashton Sims in the sudden-death semi-final at Suncorp Stadium, leading to a last-gasp match-winner to Greg Inglis.
After toiling in Melbourne’s 40-0 grand final loss to Manly, Manu was rewarded with a place in New Zealand’s World Cup squad. Starting in the second-row in his Test debut, the tournament opener against Australia, Manu scored a fine individual try – the Kiwis’ only four-pointer of the match. He missed the Kiwis’ other pool games but returned to the bench for the semi-final victory over England and played a key hand as an interchange in the momentous 34-20 triumph over Australia in the final.
In 2009, injury restricted Manu to just 10 NRL games and one Test – coming off the bench in the mid-season loss to Australia in Brisbane. But he returned at full capacity in 2010, playing in five of the Kiwis’ six Tests. He scored a try after starting in the second-row in a 76-12 demolition of Papua New Guinea in the Four Nations and again came off the bench in a Suncorp Stadium final upset of the Kangaroos.
Manu’s last outings for New Zealand came during the 2011 post-season, featuring as an interchange in a one-off encounter with Australia in Newcastle and all three matches of the Kiwis’ disappointing campaign in the Britain-hosted Four Nations.
Departing the Storm with a grand final winner’s ring at the end of 2012, Manu linked with Penrith and turned out for Tonga in a mid-season win over Samoa and in the 2013 World Cup in England. Manu stayed with the Panthers until 2015 before joining Hull FC, where he played more than 100 games over four seasons, including the Airlie Birds’ 2016-17 Challenge Cup final successes at Wembley.
The veteran captained Tonga throughout their ground-breaking charge to the 2017 World Cup semi-finals and in the end-of-season Test against Australia at Mt Smart Stadium in 2018 – Manu’s farewell to top-level rugby league.