Vatuvei draws Christchurch kids back to school
It takes a lot to draw children back to school after the last bell has rung for the summer holiday break.
But the bloke called The Beast proved to be the pied piper at Aranui Primary School yesterday.
Fresh from his Fight for Life charity boxing victory over Olympic rowing gold medallist Eric Murray, Warriors and Kiwis rugby league star Manu Vatuvei was Aranui's special Christmas guest on the last school day in 2012.
"Our Year Eights finished on Monday, but some of them came back especially to see Manu," Aranui principal Mike Allen said. "There's a tremendous number of leaguies at our school."
About 80 of Aranui's 160 pupils greeted The Beast.
"He was fantastic . . . he had a great game outside with the kids," Allen said.
"One of the kids got hurt and Manu was right up there, looking after him. He picked him up and made him feel better. [The boy] said: ‘I got picked up by Manu Vatuvei'."
Vatuvei signed memorabilia and posters and talked to his young fans about his boxing bout. Allen said the Aranui pupils told their special guest "that the Warriors have got to win" the National Rugby League title next year.
"He was wonderful with the kids," Allen said. "They had a ball, it was a perfect way to finish the year."
Vatuvei was brought to Christchurch by Sky TV.
"These youngsters have had a tough few years so we were keen to take Manu to Christchurch to visit them," Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way said. "Even though he's only just competed in Fight For Life, he jumped at the chance to bring some Christmas cheer to Aranui."
Aranui primary school is in the catchment area for the Aranui Eagles and Celebration Lions rugby league clubs.