Powerhouse rookie steps up to challenge

FOUR games into an NRL career that many thought wouldn't happen, Manu Ma'u is putting his hand up for the 2014 rookie of the year.

Ma'u — who spent three years in a New Zealand prison after being convicted for his role in a vicious gang brawl in 2007 — put in his fourth powerhouse display against the Panthers at the weekend.

He has impressed everyone with his damaging runs on the edge of the ruck.

But for Ma'u it has been all about his defence.

"My attack has always been good but I have had to work hard on my defence," he said.

"Corey Norman has helped me a lot on the field and I am still learning and I just try to stay in the game as much as I can."

Ma'u's numbers are impressive.

The 25-year-old has averaged 12 runs for 117 metres and 28 tackles.

He had also become an 80-minute player which has given coach Brad Arthur more flexibility with his interchange.

Just like his journey to the NRL, it hasn't been an easy ride.

"The NRL is a lot quicker and there is more intensity and the skill level is a step up," said Ma'u, who has used modelled his game on Storm backrower Ryan Hoffman.

"Sometimes I cramp up but I have to stay on for the boys and continue to work hard," he said.

"My first goal was to play first grade.

"My second goal is to now stay in the team and be consistent."

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