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Manase Manuokafoa shaping up nicely for big season at Bradford Bulls
Manase Manuokafoa reckons he will reap the benefits of a full pre-season as he gears up for a big campaign with the Bulls.
The powerhouse prop was recruited last winter from Parramatta following spells with South Sydney and North Queensland Cowboys.
But he did not arrive in the UK until early December and soon suffered the misfortune of being struck down by injury.
The Tonga international tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a training session shortly before Christmas, ruling him out of the opening four rounds of Super League.
Manuokafoa finally made his bow off the bench at home to Warrington in March and played every game thereafter, establishing himself as a key figure for the Bulls and gradually emerging as one of the best overseas signings in the competition in 2012.
“I came back from the injury and felt up to speed after a couple of weeks,” said 27-year-old Manuokafoa, who will take on added responsibility next term after Craig Kopczak's move to Huddersfield was confirmed.
“My knee felt fine and I was confident because I was playing decent minutes and good footie too.
“But I’ll be coming in for pre-season fitter than I was at the same time last year.
“I’m in better shape and will have the benefit of a full pre-season behind me.
“I’m only going to get fitter and stronger heading into the new Super League campaign.”
Francis Cummins’ squad will be put through a series of fitness tests next week before returning for pre-season training proper on November 5.
Manuokafoa, who recently signed a new two-year deal, admits he needs no extra motivation for the coming season as he prepares to hopefully represent Tonga in the World Cup on these shores.
“I’m close to all the Tongan boys in Super League – Willie Manu, Epalahame Lauaki, Lopini Paea and Mickey Paea,” he said.
“We’re like brothers and I’m looking forward to playing with them at the 2013 World Cup. It would mean everything to me.”