Manu Vatuvei wins Dancing With The Stars 2019

Congratulations Manu!

By Karyn Henger
It could have gone either way.
While former Warriors player Manu Vatuvei moved viewers to tears at tonight's Dancing With The Stars Grand Final with a dance he choreographed himself about his emotional rugby league journey, comedian Laura Daniel wowed the crowd with a show-stopping performance that incorporated seven different dance styles, a cast of extra dancers and a song she had recorded herself.
Both couples were given a perfect score of 30 by the judges.
"Both of you have the X factor and both of you deserve to win," judge Rachel White told them as they waited anxiously to find out who had won.
But in the end it was Manu Vatuvei who earned the highest number of viewer votes and won the coveted title of Dancing With The Stars winner for 2019.
The father of four was humble in his acceptance of the title, thanking his "beautiful wife and kids at home", everyone who has voted for him and of course his dance partner Loryn Reynolds.
Week after week Manu has worn his heart on his sleeve on DWTS - breaking down in tears after some of his performances.
In his vulnerability, he has shown New Zealanders and in particular New Zealand men that there is strength in showing your emotion and expressing your feelings.
He told Now To Love in a Q&A after the show that showing his emotions at times made him feel anxious but he was glad he has helped to make a difference in this way.
"It's something I never thought I would do."
He said he had always tried to seem the 'tough guy' on the league field but that dancing had helped him find a way to express his feelings.
Manu and Loryn's winning dance, which Manu choreographed himself.
Manu said he intends to continue dancing with Loryn.
"She knows what I like and she knows what I don't like," he joked.
He and Loryn both laugh about how "bad" he was at the beginning of his DWTS journey, but Manu says that after dancing the rumba everything clicked into place for him, and he began to love it.
He said he had felt "down" after an achilles injury had prevented him from continuing to play rugby league and he had returned to work as a construction worker when the call had come to join the DWTS cast.
Loryn said she was proud of Manu for choreographing tonight's dance. "He is my dance partner. I have never thought of him as my student."
Runner-up Laura Daniel said they had all "won" in being part of this experience.
"It's been a true honour to be here... dance is for everyone, if you want to do it give it a go."
Laura had wanted to be on DWTS since she was a little girl, and so to be asked to join the cast had been a "dream come true" for her.
She had never had the confidence to become a dancer as a girl because she didn't think she had the "right" body type. Now she feels like a dancer.
Laura and Manu had outdanced fellow finalists Clint Randell and William Waiirua to make the final two.
Each of the four finalists danced their favourite dance from the season to battle for a place in the final two, and then viewer votes determined which final two would go through to the final dance-off.
Manu and Laura both performed a new dance that they had put together with their partners especially for tonight's final.