Matai doing his best to resurrect test career

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2012
Steve Matai
Getty Images
STEVE MATAI: ''I spoke to the Kiwis on Wednesday and said I was going to make myself available for the Samoan side.''

Relevant offers

League

Kiwis playmaker Kieran Foran signs new four-year contract with Parramatta Eels Kiwis playmaker Kieran Foran to accept new deal from Parramatta Eels State of Origin: Why NSW Blues coach Laurie Daley won't give up on Robbie Farah Hooker Apisai Koroisau to quit Penrith Panthers and join Manly Sea Eagles on three-year deal Cronulla Sharks hooker Michael Ennis cops one-game ban for high shot Penrith Panthers go back-to-back with win over South Sydney Rabbitohs Canterbury Bulls rugby league team to return to familiar pen NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson resigned to leaving Canterbury Bulldogs State of Origin III: Robbie Farah has plate inserted in hand to be fit for decider Suspended Kirisome Auva'a cleared for return to rugby league

Steve Matai is trying to shed his image as an angry young man - and the fact he's among the NRL's longest-serving elders aids his cause.

But old habits die hard for the 144-game veteran, he's still missed two games through suspension so far this year.

Rising 28, he is showing signs of mellowing with age, the high tackle he was penalised for during Manly's loss to the Bulldogs last Friday night was innocuous by his standards, an irrelevant offence in the context of a Greg Inglis shoulder charge on Dean Young and Travis Burns' dangerous shot on Martin Kennedy later in the round.

Matai has not made a contribution to the shoulder charge debate this season, given his injury history and a desire to resurrect his international career the 12-test Kiwi appreciates the value in keeping his body right and nose clean.

“I've been pretty good. Fingers crossed nothing happens,” he said before heading to Perth for the first time, the venue of Saturday's round 21 clash with the Warriors.

Matai was a casualty of the 2011 grand final rematch at Eden Park in round one when he broke a thumb during the second half - an injury that sidelined him for four games.

And as far as judicial impediments go he was suspended for two weeks for a swinging arm that knocked out Penrith's Danny Galea in May.

His prior record - including a seven-match ban for a high shot on the Bulldogs Michael Ennis in the final round of the 2010 season - meant lodging an early guilty plea was the wisest course of action and since then Matai has been on his best behaviour.

The Ennis suspension was particularly costly for Matai, it ruled him out of that year's Four Nations tournament, and when a neck injury sidelined him from the 2011 competition it appeared the test component of his career had stalled.

However, Matai still harbours ambitions of making the lineup for October's trans-Tasman test in Townsville and then the World Cup defence 12 months later.

“For the last few years I've missed out through injury and suspension. I'm hoping to get my body right and hopefully things fall into place after that,” he said.

Even the World Cup final win over the Kangaroos in Brisbane four years ago was bittersweet for Matai, a spectator after he suffered a neck injury playing England.

“My last test was 2009 so it's been a while,” he said.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall has one centre berth nailed down but the other has been open - Simon Mannering filled in during April's Anzac test - so Matai has everything to play for over the duration of the regular season and, presumably, the finals series.

Ad Feedback

- Fairfax Media

Special offers
Opinion poll

Who is your pick for international league player of the year?

Shaun Johnson

Jesse Bromwich

Sam Burgess

James Graham

Greg Inglis

Johnathan Thurston

Vote Result

Related story: (See story)

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content