As 18-year-old Sione Mata’utia prepares for one of the biggest moments of his life, a familiar face comforts him.
It may not be the friendliest face you’ve seen, but one of experience and guts and the type you’d want on your side.
It is teammate Beau Scott.
Scott and Mata’utia have both gained selection in the Australian Kangaroos to compete in the Four Nations Tournament, with the first game to be played on Saturday in Brisbane against the Kiwis.
It has already been a monumental year for both players, with the selection coming off the back of a year of personal accolades as well as playing in the Prime Minister’s XIII side against the PNG Kumuls in Papua New Guinea.
Mata’utia’s first encounter with Scott was during last season's pre-season, when the talented 17-year-old was given the opportunity to train with the first grade squad.
“We just said hello and spoke a little bit, but since the camp and being roomies, I’ve seemed to get to know Beau a little bit more,” Mata’utia said.
Scott is widely known as one of the most intimidating and formidable players in the competition, but Mata’utia reveals a different side to the veteran enforcer.
“I always thought Beau was big, intimidating and scary, and that he doesn’t smile much, but the more you get to know Beau, the more you get to realise who he is,” he said.
“He’s a hard man on the field and a good person off the field.”
During the trip, Scott and Mata’utia have bonded further as roommates and found common ground within the 12-year age gap.
“We’ve now become a bit closer and started to tell a few jokes,” Mata'utia added.
“It’s good that I got to room with Beau, it made my trip pretty comfortable.
“He loves a prank.
“I even pretended to throw his new boots to the kids one time, he just laughed at me…I definitely wouldn’t have thrown them."
Mata’utia then tells of his first memories of being in camp, to explain Scott’s playful streak.
“We were going back to our room and there were these lizards,” Mata’utia explained.
“I can’t stand lizards, snakes, spiders or anything - I think it was gecko, a massive fat one.
“Beau went to go touch it, and I was like, ‘what are you doing?’
“He then went to flick it off with his other hand towards me and I screamed and almost ran down the stairs.
“He’s good like that, and it sort of breaks the ice.”
The trip to Papua New Guinea was a whirlwind for Mata’utia who went from attending the Knights Awards Night in Newcastle, where he was recognised with a number of accolades, to departing for Sydney in a hire car that night and flying to Papua New Guinea early the next morning.
The Prime Minister’s XIII side was welcomed to Papua New Guinea with a few thousand excited fans packing out the airport.
“We walked out and there were people there screaming names and touching you,” he said.
“They’re not the kind of people to get autographs but like to take selfies and are all about cameras, phones and hand shakes.
“The boys were saying it would be like that but it was a big eye opener for me.”
The representative game wasn’t the first taste of the Pacific nation for the 18-year-old.
Rewind almost a year and the NYC talent was trekking the Kokoda trail as part of the Knights’ Kokoda Spirit Award, which recognises emerging talent.
“The Kokoda trail helped me in a different way, with lifestyle and my life in general,” he said.
“I knew they were footy fans from the last trip I did for Kokoda, but never to this extent of packed out airports."
It’s been one incredible year for the youngest of the Mata’utia brothers.
He was always tipped to excel in the game, but it has been a rapid rise with a growing list of accolades.
When asked if this time a year ago, he could see himself pulling on the green and gold, Mata’utia is confident in his answer.
While he absolutely set a goal to represent his country, his selection at this stage was unexpected.
"This has come really really early,” he said.
“But I guess when the opportunity comes knocking, you kick the door down and take it with both hands.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Kangaroo but never thought it would be this early, I just can’t wait.”
Mata’utia said today’s achievements can all be traced back to a few years ago when he set mind on a serious career in rugby league.
“I think at a younger age, at about 16 turning 17, I realised that I could make things out of rugby league,” he said.
The young Knight is ever-humble in his success and points out the myriad of people who have supported him through his journey.
“There have been a lot of trainers who have really helped me including Colin Sanctuary, he was a big help when I was younger,” he said.
“Since the day I realised, he was there to help me out and I respected him.”
He also recognised Knights trainers Dave Ballard, Grant Duthie and Jeremy Hickmans who assisted him through pre-season and his NRL debut.
“Off the field, Phil Matthews really helps me with TAFE and getting into study and getting my life ready for life after football,” Mata’utia said.
He is also quick to credit the support from his girlfriend Jamie Hohua.
“My ultimate goal is to make my Mum happy, to make sure she is proud of what we’ve done," he said.
“She’ll always be proud of what we do, and we’re always trying to pay her back for what she’s done for us.
Mata’utia and Scott are currently in Kangaroos camp in Brisbane, preparing for Saturday’s 6.30pm match against the Kiwis at Suncorp Stadium.
Meanwhile, NRL.com caught up with Mata'utia in camp to reflect on his stellar season and speak about his expectations coming into Saturday.