No deal for Manu return to Roosters says Robinson

Melissa Woods |

Roosters coach Trent Robinson says Joey Manu will be a huge loss when he heads to rugby in Japan.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson says Joey Manu will be a huge loss when he heads to rugby in Japan.

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson fears this NRL season will be the last he’ll see of Joey Manu, with no agreement in place for a return following a stint in Japanese club rugby.

Manu will leave the Roosters at the end of 2024 after signing a one-year deal with Toyota Verblitz, and has made no commitment his Sydney club beyond that.

The Tricolours welcome skipper James Tedesco back from concussion for Thursday night’s clash with Melbourne, with Kiwi international Manu shifting from fullback back to the centres after starring at No.1 in their win over Newcastle.

James Tedesco
James Tedesco makes his return from the head knock he suffered against the Bulldogs. (James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS)

Being able to dominate in both positions is a rare talent that the Roosters will miss, according to a shattered Robinson.

“It’s a huge loss for us and the game,” the coach said ahead of their battle with the second-placed Storm.

“It was done in the right way and it was really transparent but you can’t downplay losing Joey Manu; there’s not someone who’s going to walk in and do that role.

“I don’t know if he will be back … I’d like it to be the assumption that he does return here but there’s definitely nothing there about him returning otherwise I’d be a little bit happier right now.

“After this year I’m not sure I’ll see him again in a professional sense.”

Robinson said Manu’s motivation for his move was a personal challenge, to play the code he grew up with and also to live overseas, which the Roosters couldn’t compete with.

He could look to become a dual international and base himself in New Zealand and attempt to make the All Blacks ahead of the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Meanwhile, Sam Walker was named in the reserves for the Allianz Stadium match but Robinson said the halfback had failed to pass the concussion protocols to make his return.

“He tried to train but didn’t quite get there so we’ve ruled him out,” the coach said.

Robinson was hopeful Walker would be available for their round-eight clash with St George Illawarra.

Melbourne welcome Nelson Asofa-Solomona for his first game of the season after a pre-season hamstring injury.

It’s ideal timing with the giant prop coming in for Tui Kamikamica, who is sidelined with a calf issue, as the Storm look to continue their strong record against the ninth-placed Roosters.

They haven’t lost to the Roosters in Sydney since 2019 and have won eight of their past nine clashes.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona will play his first NRL game of the season, starting for Melbourne. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“Hopefully he can come in and do a good job for us,” said Storm coach Craig Bellamy.

“We just need him to go up there and play his role and just do his job.

“He hasn’t played in the NRL this year at all and didn’t play any of the trials so we’ll manage him with the minutes he plays.

“Having Tui out gives Nelson a good chance to make a mark on the game early.”