Newcastle Knights forward Sam Mataora is reaping the rewards on the field this season after working on his fitness.
Over the pre-season, the Cook Islands born Knight has shed more than eight kilograms pushing him closer to his potential as a professional athlete.
Mataora admits a candid chat with newly appointed coach Nathan Brown was the wake-up call he needed.
“Browny had a talk to me and said if I wanted to stay, I had to lose the weight,” the 25-year old said on Thursday.
“He is straight up and pretty honest and I like that.”
The dramatic lifestyle change has paid dividends on the field with Mataora emerging as one of the team’s top performers this season.
His performance has even earned him the accolade of Players’ Player three times in just six rounds.
“I can move around easier,” he admitted.
“A personal goal is that I want to play consistently.”
While the journey has been hard going at times, Mataora says what keeps him on track is his young daughter and his steadfast faith in God.
“My daughter, she’s staying in Canberra at the moment, which is a bit hard, but she keeps me focused,” he said.
"My daughter and my faith in God, they are the main two and everything works out after that.”
For too long he feels he’s taken his natural talent for granted.
“I’m getting older and I have a gift that I’ve got, to play rugby,” he said.
“In the last couple of years I’ve been wasting it so I have the opportunity and I’m just grateful to take it.
“I just need to focus on myself.”
Concentrating on his personal game is how he intends to tackle the Wests Tigers at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
“It will be another challenge and has been a challenge the last couple of weeks,” he said.
Instead of preoccupying his thoughts with his direct opponents, Mataora reveals the key for him recently has been the fact he’s focused intently on his preparation.
“It has been working so far as that’s what I’ve been doing,” he said.
The Knights are well prepared for the attacking finesses of the Tigers after learning hard lessons from the side’s loss to the Melbourne Storm on Saturday.
“We let them off the hook…we could have won it there. The experienced players stepped up against storm,” he said.
“We will try to do everything for 80 minutes.”
While he already has plenty of motivation to be at his best on Sunday, playing in front of a home crowd will provide added impetus.
“The atmosphere is awesome. I enjoy it when we get a full crowd,” he said.
Buy your tickets for the Voice For Mining Family Day when the Knights take on Wests Tigers at Hunter Stadium.