Rugby League: Dancing With the Stars winner Manu Vatuvei's fire still burns for professional career

After thrilling the nation with his dancing feet, rugby league star Manu Vatuvei still holds out hope for a return to the sporting spotlight.

The former NZ Warriors winger was crowned Dancing With The Stars NZ 2019 champion on Sunday night, wooing judges and viewers with his final routine.

But Vatuvei still craves the thrill of entertaining on the field or the boxing ring - if his body allows it.

The 33-year-old last played league for Salford in the UK Super League in 2018, but only featured eight times in two seasons with the Red Devils.

Injury curtailed his final few seasons for the Warriors too, but Vatuvei returned to national prominence in November, when he made his professional boxing debut on the Joseph Parker undercard in Christchurch.

Vatuvei destroyed David 'Brown Butterbean' Letele in the first round, a performance that had the Aucklander dreaming of a career inside the ring.

Unfortunately, Vatuvei's aspirations have been slowed down by concussion concerns, but he told Newshub he still wanted to compete well into his 30s, health permitting.

"I'm still going through a few things around my body and my health, and I'm still juggling all that, versus everything else in my life," he told Newshub.

"The fires still burns - I want to keep playing and I want to box again. I'll take a couple weeks off and then take it from there.

"If I decide not to make a professional type of comeback, then I would love to run out for the Otara Scorpions."

Vatuvei's triumph on DWTS proved he still holds a competitive edge, but he stressed the most important driver for him in the competition was raising money for his chosen charity, Kids Can.

"I've always been competitive, but it didn't really feel like I was competing. I was there to do something for a great cause - a great charity.

"I know it was a competition with that trophy to win at the end, but I saw it differently."

And the former Kiwis and Tongan international will be on hand at Mt Smart Stadium this Saturday night, when New Zealand host Mate Ma'a in a rematch of Tonga's historic Rugby World Cup victory two years ago.

Vatuvei is part of the Tongan coaching staff and is predicting another memorable clash.

"The Kiwis will want revenge from the World Cup, but I know for sure our boys will be going out there to do their very best.

"It'll be a massive test match. I just hope all our Tongan fans will get out there in numbers to support the Island brothers - it motivates the boys to do well.

"Hopefully, we get the win."

Following that, Vatuvei's immediate career path is unclear, while he waits on test results, but he will be kept busy at home.

"My two younger daughters love to dance," he said.

"They try my routines with me every time I come home, but the elder kids are a bit too cool for that (laughs)."


Join us at 5:40pm Saturday for live updates of the NZ Kiwis v Tonga rugby league test