Ex-All Blacks coach backs league superstar to ‘effortlessly’ switch codes after million-dollar move

Jared Wright
Joey Manu of the Roosters and former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen.

Joey Manu of the Roosters and former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen.

Former All Blacks head coach Sir Steve Hansen is backing Sydney Roosters star Joey Manu to “effortlessly” make the switch to rugby union.

Manu has signed with Hansen’s Japanese club, Toyota Verblitz, ahead of the 2024/25 season. He becomes the second Roosters player to make the code switch after Joseph Aukuso Sua’ali’i.

It is reported that the league star will earn in excess of $1 million per season in Japan, where the New Zealander will be coached by director of rugby Hansen and new coach Ian Foster, whose move to Japan was also confirmed by the club.

Manu switches codes

“I have cherished my time playing rugby league for the Roosters, so it’s been a tough decision to leave the club and NRL,” Manu said in a club statement.

“I will always be grateful to wear the Roosters jersey and to everyone who has supported me and provided me with some incredible opportunities.

“While I’m excited to embrace the challenge of playing rugby in Japan, right now I am focused on finishing this year strongly and performing at my very best for the Roosters.”

The 27-year-old made his NRL debut for the Roosters in 2016 and has since played 164 games for the club.

He follows fellow Rooster Suaalii in making the switch to league while Wallabies star Mark Nawaqanitawase heads in the other direction.

League to union code switch: The best, worst and still too soon to tell

Steve Hansen on Joey Manu’s move

Manu’s departure from the NRL is a significant loss for the league, as another star makes the code switch. A double premiership champion (2018 and 2019) and Dally M centre of the year for the Roosters in 2022, Manu has also won the prestigious Golden Boot award as the best player in international rugby league, while playing full-back for New Zealand.

“I’m very excited about Joey’s signing. He’s a versatile athlete who can play multiple positions including full-back,” Hansen said.

“I’ve seen him excel as a centre, wing, and full-back. He has a great skill set and a strong work ethic, both of which I believe will help him crossover to rugby effortlessly, and his skill set aligns well with our style of play as well as the game he’s currently involved in.

“I’m excited about his arrival and the potential he brings to the team. I’m confident he’ll bring elements that complement our game, and I’m anticipating seeing him in action.”

Manu admits that “the transition won’t be easy” but will “embrace the challenge.”

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