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Manu Vatuvei: Tatt’s my girl

Among the many tattoos on rugby league hardman Manu Vatuvei's toned and sculpted body, his favourite is the one etched across the middle of his back - his three-year-old daughter Makayla's name occupies that prime position.

Among the many tattoos on rugby league hardman Manu Vatuvei’s toned and sculpted body, his favourite is the one etched across the middle of his back – his three-year-old daughter Makayla’s name occupies that prime position.

So when wife Jennifer revealed earlier this year that she was expecting their second child, Manu’s initial thoughts weren’t about baby names or if it would be a boy or girl, but where to place a tattoo of his new baby’s name.

“My tattoos are extremely important to me, especially Makayla’s one,” says the Warriors superstar. “I’m away from my family a lot and having Makayla’s name on my back means that she’s still with me, even when I’m not at home.”

So Manu is gearing up for another tattoo to put underneath Makayla when his second baby, another girl, is born.

“I’m thinking about doing something extra special – maybe getting our baby’s footprint on their somewhere,” Manu says with a huge smile.

It’s no secret that Manu (24), whose nickname is “The Beast”, is extremely excited about becoming a dad again.

“Ever since Makayla was born, I’ve always wanted more children and always dreamed of having a big family,” says the Tongan winger.

Manu and his high school sweetheart Jennifer (25) had been trying for a sibling for Makayla since their romantic wedding in october last year.

“We wanted to get pregnant fast,” explains Jennifer, “so I stopped taking the Pill just before the wedding and even bought an ovulation chart to tell us the best times to conceive.”

The couple was hoping Jennifer would fall pregnant on their honeymoon in Fiji, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. But six months after the wedding, their prayers were answered when Jennifer discovered she was expecting.

Unfortunately, Manu was in Australia playing league, so the good news had to be broken to him over the phone.

“Jennifer couldn’t wait for me to return, so the next best thing was calling me. I was over the moon. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I texted all my mates,” explains Manu.

As one of the Warriors’ key players, Manu juggles his time between training, travelling and playing, and being home to support his pregnant wife.

“When he’s home, he’s such a huge help,” Jennifer says. “Luckily for him, I’m not as cranky this time around, but I still get him to run to the shop and do the odd errand for me,” she smiles.

Manu says his favourite part of the pregnancy process is going to the scans and sitting Makayla on his lap while they look at baby together.

In fact, one of the happiest moments in his life was when Makayla saw her little sister in the scan for the first time. “I was talking her through it, explaining what the blurred black and white images on the screen were. Her eyes lit up and she had a huge smile on her face as she said excitedly, ‘I see it, Daddy. It’s a baby. It’s a baby!'”

“This was a special moment for me because it showed how excited Makayla was to have a sibling to play with and look after – she can’t wait.”

When Makayla was born, she was two weeks early and Manu missed her birth because he was playing in Wellington – and he says it remains one of his biggest regrets in life.

Jennifer is due in october, right at the end of the busy NRL season, and Manu is concerned he might miss this birth too if the baby decides to arrive early. “It’s a tough situation, but I’m going to make sure I’m there for Jennifer this time, if I can be,” he says.

As Manu and Jennifer prepare for the new addition to their tight-knit family unit, Manu says he believes becoming a husband and a father has made him a better man.

“Being a dad has changed me. It’s made me appreciate my own parents more and the sacrifices they made,” he says. “Instead of going out and having fun with my mates, all I think about now is staying home and making sure my family is well looked after. I’m a very lucky man.”

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