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Meet the Nelson coach who gave Warriors legend Simon Mannering a job, a home and a path to a 300-game career

This story was first published on Monday August 27. Simon Mannering plays his 300th match for the Warriors tonight. 

Mannering's life could’ve been drastically different had he not met Paul Bergman. Source: 1 NEWS

There might never be another Warrior quite like Simon Mannering but before the NRL, he was a kid growing up in Nelson, playing rugby union.

That all changed when he met national rugby league secondary schools coach Paul Bergman.

"He looked more like a basketballer, not a rugby league player. Bit lanky," Bergman said.

"There were tougher and bigger Polynesian boys, but they didn't make 60 tackles a game like Simon!"

Soon after the chance encounter, Bergman coached Wellington in the Bartercard Cup.

Mannering followed him, sleeping on his couch as Bergman taught him the game and life lessons.

"I got him a job putting Pink Batts in so he'd come home with fibre glass all on his arms and legs, but he didn't moan," Bergman said.

The veteran still has fond memories of his 2005 debut alongside other club legends. Source: 1 NEWS

"You know Simon's personality - he just got on with the job."

Shortly after, Issac Luke moved into the two-bedroom unit after falling out with family.

Bergman said it wasn’t a hard choice.

"I didn't think you could leave a young 16-year-old on the street so that's how Issac [moved in].

"I said, 'well come and stay with us' and I told my wife and we'd already had Simon for six months."

Ask around and you'll find many Kiwi NRL stars owe a lot to the former Kiwis assistant.

That's why straight after the 2010 Four Nations final in Brisbane, Mannering and Lewis Brown abandoned team celebrations following their 16-12 win over Australia and rushed to hospital where Bergman was critically ill with a brain tumour.

"We won and then he was going in for his surgery and he didn't know if he was going to make it through or not," Mannering said on his reason for going straight away.

Bergman couldn’t believe it.

"I was very honoured that he'd cut his celebrations short to see me in hospital."

The experience put things into perspective for both men.

"I can 100 per cent say I wouldn't be here in this position or have what I've had in the last 14 seasons without Paul," Mannering said.

Bergman says he feels like a proud father.

"He slept on my couch, treated him like my own son and now look at him, it's tremendous."

From the couch to the 300 club - and just maybe another NRL Grand Final.