WHILE the week surrounding All Stars largely focuses on the Aboriginal community, New Zealand winger Manu Vatuvei is reminded of his own Indigenous heritage.
The monster wrecking ball comes from a highly cultural Tongan upbringing and like the Indigenous All Stars, this NRL All Star takes the pride of his family with him to the game on Saturday night.
“Culture means a lot to me,” Vatuvei told sportsnewsfirst.com.au.
“I’m of Tongan heritage, my family are all born in Tonga and me and my sister are the only ones born in New Zealand.
“It makes me proud to represent them, every time I play I represent my country and my culture.
“When I was young at home it was really strict with my parents.
“I had to speak Tongan at home and wasn’t allowed to speak any English they said ‘that is what school is for, you learn there and when you come home you learn your culture’.”
Not allowed to watch televisions with his priority to take care of his sisters, his culture which centres on respect has shaped the person he is today.
“It’s kept me humble and I just have to do everything right… my upbringing has taught me not to have a big head and be thankful for everything that I get,” he said.
In the third consecutive year Vatuvei has been selected in the All Stars, the winger has relished the opportunity to play alongside a group of players he would not usually get the chance to team with.
“I was honoured to be picked and named in a team like that,” he said.
“A few of the Australian boys – I never thought I would be playing next to.
“I was pretty honoured playing next to (Darren) Lockyer in the first one; I was pretty star struck like a little kid.
“I felt like one of the fans running up to him. It was a great honour and I was happy to be in the team and representing my club.
“Every year I make the team and I am always happy… hopefully this carries on.”
The New Zealand International said Warriors coach Brian McClennan has fit into the club and his style of play has already been adapted by the players at training.
Vatuvei said the clubs goal is to improve on their grand final appearance last season and secure the illusive premiership in 2012.
A large part of the All Stars week is working with indigenous youth and playing a role in reinforcing the importance of education and healthy living.
According to Vatuvei, goal-setting is a vital part of life and he is no different.
“Sometimes I don’t achieve all the goals I set and that makes me want to push harder,” he said.
“I’ve always had niggling injuries so one of my goals is to look after my body.”
Vatuvei has changed his dieting habits and paid extra attention to his cool down in order to address his injuries.