Despite only turning 24 next year, Sione Mata’utia is charging through his seventh NRL pre-season and is optimistic that he can knuckle down a consistent position.
After bursting onto the scene in 2014 as an electric winger where he debuted for the Australia Kangaroos after just seven first-grade matches for the nib Newcastle Knights, Mata’utia has bounced around in several various roles throughout the back-row and the backline.
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The plenty of fresh faces across the squad, including coach Adam O’Brien, has resulted in a tougher and more competitive training environment and one that has the young dual-international excited and determined.
“It’s been very different this one [pre-season] in terms of the type of training we’ve been doing,” Mata’utia said.
“It’s given us a different view on training. It’s been a good change.
“Everyone has been competing. I think that’s been the most enjoyable and noticeable thing to see. It’s hard to pick the best trainer every week because everyone is pushing each other to a new level.”
While Mata’utia has spent the majority of recent weeks training in the back-row, he’s aware of the importance his skill of versatility holds within the side.
“At the start of pre-season, he [O’Brien] told me he wants me to do a few more reps at back row,” he said.
“The difference between the earlier years and the last two is that there’s been a fair bit more competition for positions and it’s definitely changed me as a player and held me a lot more accountable than what I was at a younger age… It’s definitely helping my game.
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“I’ve come to terms that I’ve got to know how to play a few positions. If I get the opportunity to lock down a position it would be cool, but as long as I’m playing footy that’s the most important thing."
Training takes a bit of a twist next week for Mata’utia and the boys as they head inland for camp in Tamworth in “a little spanner in the works.”
“I’m not sure what to expect, but Adzy has reassured us it’s going to be good. Hopefully we get to bond with the boys a little bit more, especially the new players,” he said.
“You’ve got to wait until round one to see all the rewards but you can only go off feeling and it's feeling really strong and the bonds are only getting stronger.”