He may have missed 21 games for Manly since making his debut in 2005 due to suspension, but Steve Matai says his teammates have urged him not to change his aggressive style.
Matai sat out last Friday's NRL semi-final win over North Queensland following a one-match ban for a high shot on Canterbury's Sam Perrett in the opening week of the finals.
The softly-spoken Kiwi international, who's feisty on-field persona is poles apart from his demeanour away from the heat of battle, was a frustrated onlooker at Allianz Stadium as his side edged to a 22-12 win over the Cowboys.
It was the second time this season Matai has been hit with an enforced lay-off following a two-match ban for a grade four careless high tackle on Penrith's Dan Galea in round 12.
And he admitted he was concerned his actions against the Bulldogs had let the team down.
"I'm very happy and relieved that the boys have given me that opportunity to play again," Matai said on Tuesday.
"I was very nervous during the game. I was actually in the change rooms. I can't watch games from the sideline I get too edgy."
"You just want to get out there and get involved. I was pacing around and kicking a few bottles."
Matai revealed that earlier in his career he was so concerned about the number of games he was missing that he made a point of asking his teammates and the Sea Eagles coaching staff if he should alter the way he plays.
But their response gave him confidence to continue being one of the toughest centres in the game - albeit one who walks a fine line with referees.
"I have spoken to the boys and the coaches and they don't want me to change," he said.
"It wasn't a big conversation as such but I've asked the boys in passing and they love me for who I am and how I play the game.
"They don't want anything to change, just to play hard. That's the way I do it."
Sea Eagles back-rower Anthony Watmough said Matai's defensive prowess is a vital part of the team and dismissed the idea of him changing his ways.
"I hope Stevie never changes," Watmough said.
"Some of the hits he puts on and the contact he makes, you don't even see from front-rowers and he's out in the centres doing that."
Matai's return for Friday's preliminary final with Melbourne at AAMI Park is a timely boost and Watmough said he'll need to be at his combative best to take on a menacing Storm side.
"He's a vital part of our team and his aggression gets us going," Watmough said.
"He walks a very fine line, it's almost a shoestring. But his aggression is one of the best things in this game and everyone loves to see it.
"I would say Melbourne is the toughest road trip and we're going to need him."
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