Bulldogs chase Dragons fullback Peter Mata'utia

ADRIAN PROSZENKO
Last updated 09:47 30/07/2014
Peter Mata'utia
Fairfax
FULLBACK OPTION: Peter Mata'utia has been linked with the Bulldogs who are looking to recruit a top fullback.

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Peter Mata'utia could be a contender for the Canterbury No 1 jersey next year if he can gain a release from the final year of his St George Illawarra contract.

The Bulldogs are one of three clubs that have expressed interest in Mata'utai and are prepared to offer him a long-term deal if he can make the switch at the end of the season.

The Mata'utia brothers could soon be rivalling the Burgess quartet as the hottest family in rugby league after Sione and Chanel made spectacular NRL debuts in Newcastle's upset win over the Roosters.

Another sibling, Pat Mata'utia, is also in the Knights system and a chance of becoming the fourth player in the family to play first-grade in the near future. All four are off contract next year and rival clubs are already circling.

The Burgess brothers - Sam, Luke and twins Tom and George - recently became the first set of four brothers to line up in the same Australian side for more than a century since Ray, Roy, Rex and Bernard Norman all turned out for the now-defunct Annandale club in 1910. 

Peter Mata'utia is contracted to the Dragons until the end of next year but the Bulldogs are keen to snap him up if the Red V will let him go. It is understood Canberra and Cronulla are also keen on his services but Belmore is his most likely destination if released.

Mata'utia's previous requests for a release from the joint-venture outfit had been blocked, with the club unlikely to make a call until a coach is appointed.

The Bulldogs are attempting to bolster the depth in their outside backs after Krisnan Inu was granted a release to join French rugby. They are also looking for long-term fullback options following the departure of Ben Barba to Brisbane, with Mata'utai in the frame to wear the No 1 jersey pending the club's interest in other targets, such as Kurtley Beale.

Injuries have restricted Mata'utai - who can play in the centres, on the wing or as custodian - to just 11 NRL games during stints at Newcastle and St George Illawarra. The most serious was an emergency tracheostomy after a stray elbow crushed his larynx during a NSW Cup game two years ago.

It is believed interim coach Paul McGregor has a high opinion of Mata'utai but whether he is given the job full-time could determine whether Canterbury counterpart Des Hasler gets his man.

Sione and Chanel became the first brothers to make their debut on the same day since Dragons pair Doug and Bill McRitchie at the Dragons 72 years ago.

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Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett is not normally in the habit of talking up teenagers yet to play first grade, but said of Sione before his first game: ''I'm pleased that I'm the coach here that's given him the opportunity because he's got a long career here, and he'll be one of the club's great players - one of this club's, and the game's.''

After letting in a try in the opening minutes, Sione recovered to be one of the best against the reigning premiers, running for 163 metres from nine carries, including six tackle breaks. With Darius Boyd unlikely to play again this year due to personal issues, he will likely see out the season as fullback.

''It obviously wasn't the start I really wanted but it was good the boys got into me and got behind me to back myself,'' Sione told the club's website.

''It's on the back of them how I performed, so it's a credit to them too. They had a lot to do with my performance.''

Chanel also made an immediate impact in the absence of injured wingers Akuila Uate and James McManus, running for 180 metres from 20 carries.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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