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Sione Mata’uita will never forget his first contact session with the NRL squad.


Sitting outside Knights' HQ this week, Mata'utia recounts the day he took on big boppers Willie Mason and Alex McKinnon on the pads and come off second best.


"I was pretty nervous, but I just thought I’d have a go," Mata'utia reflects.


"Then next thing I know I was on my back and pretty dazed.


"I stood up to Wayne looking at me and laughing.


"I was laughing back and then Wayne said, ‘welcome to the big boys’


"I just said, ‘yeah thanks’ It was a pretty warm welcome."


At this point, it would have been easy for Mata'utia to go into his shell.


You see, it doesn't matter if you're a rookie or veteran, copping a big hit from the likes of Mason is always going to dent the old confidence.


Mata'utia, though, is one resilient guy as coach Bennett has discovered this summer.


"We’ve been through a pretty tough pre-season and Sione's been at the forefront of it all and hasn’t missed a session," Bennett enthuses.


"Big effort by him at 17 years of age.


"The players are even finding it tough, the guys who have been doing it for a long time.


"But he’s come through great and has a wonderful attitude and lovely demeanour about him.


"He's certainly someone we can all look forward to, with a fair bit of confidence all being well, that he will be one of the Knights' long term players that have gone through and started their careers and finished their careers here."


Bennett has selected Mata'utia at fullback for his maiden top grade appearance against the First Nations Goannas on Saturday.


The supercoach has no doubts young Sione will prosper in the game, which is a reward for all his effort in the pre-season thus far.


"It's a pretty special occasion for him," he says.


"He’ll feel good out there and I’m sure he’ll enjoy it."


Mata'utia isn't alone when it comes to young players who have impressed this pre-season.


Bennett also pinpoints winger Jake Mamo and second rower Joe Tapine as guys who have stood out.


"Jake’s been great as well," he continues.


“These kids have really been tested and really under the pump.


“There’s been no excuses made for them and there’s been no one looking to nurse them into it, they’ve just been thrown into it.


“Joe Tapine is the other boy there.


"I’ve got to say it’s a credit to the three of them, because they've all really done well.”


Mata'utia is looking forward to taking on the Goannas tomorrow night and has even purchased some new boots for the special occasion.


"Yeah I’ve got new boots, some nice fluro Nikes," Mata'utia confirms.


"You know, something bright so I can stand out.”


Just like he has done for the Knights this pre-season.