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Dependable, hard working and a rock solid defender. Vodafone Warriors centre Vinnie Anderson has heard all the terms to describe his play. He wants much more. "I've been reasonably happy with my defence," says the 24-year-old. "But I'm looking to expand my attacking skills. I've been watching videos of some of the best attacking centers in the game, guys like Justin Hodges, Jamie Lyons and Brent Tate, just to see what their strengths are."
One of the best attacking centres in the NRL is his team-mate, Clinton Toopi. Toopi's finger injury will keep him out of action for at least another month, allowing Anderson a chance to consolidate a berth in the starting line-up.
Australian John Carlaw is the other leading centre at the Warriors and his injury worries have enabled Anderson to be in the playing 17 for every match this season. "Clinton's the type of player you know other teams worry about. He has got a lot of attacking skills and can make something out of nothing,"he says. "Tony Kemp (Warriors assistant coach) asked me what happened to all the attacking skills like over the top or round the corner passes that I used to show for Mt Albert in the Bartercard Cup. I suppose it comes down to having the confidence to use them. I've only been playing in the NRL for less than a season and I know how tough this competition is. One mistake and you're punished. But I'm getting there and I know I'm getting closer to displaying those skills in the NRL that Kempy was talking about."
Anderson says his love of rugby league brought him back to New Zealand after a year of living in Arizona, the home town of his American wife, Seini. He was a builder in the US as he has been since leaving Church College in Hamilton and says he was making a nice living. "Everything in Arizona seemed so convenient and cheap! They had drive-thru's for just about everything and there was a lot of work for me. But I really wanted to come back and give rugby league a try."
Anderson was born on the North Shore and played rugby league for East Coast Bays before the family moved to Australia when he was nine. He played for the Belrose club in Manly Warringah in Sydney and was astonished at the standard and numbers. "At my club alone there were five teams in the same age group competition. They played me at prop. I suppose it was because I was big and part Tongan (through his Mum)." Anderson returned to New Zealand to attend Church College, where he picked up his renowned basketball skills, discovered the Mormon Religion and became an apprentice builder for his father, Warwick, leaving all sport behind. Rugby league re-entered his life for the first time in almost a decade upon returning to New Zealand. After a few games playing for East Coast Bays he joined the Mt Albert team competing in the Auckland club competition and coached by Gene Card. Mt Albert Bartercard Cup coach John Ackland selected Anderson for the national competition before the warriors stepped in last year. Anderson made his NRL debut in Round 17 against the Cronulla Sharks.
On Friday the Warriors play the early competition pace-setters Canberra at Wellington Stadium. While relieved they don't have to travel across the Tasman, Anderson certainly doesn't regard it as a home game. "It's not like you're sleeping in your own bed the night before the game and you've got a set routine," he says. "We know the Raiders will be smarting after a couple of losses, so we've got to be on our game to stop them getting back to form."
From the pen of leading sports writer Innes Logan