After driving the St. George Illawarra Dragons to the top of the NRL ladder, Peter Mata’utia and Will Matthews are motivated to lead the VB NSW Cup Representative Team past the Queensland Residents in the annual interstate clash this Sunday in Brisbane.
“It’s a massive game,” Matthews said. “I was lucky enough to play two years ago when we got the win. We haven’t won many of them. There’s always a really good rivalry between NSW and Queensland. It’s definitely one of those games you love to play in.”
The Dragons have caught everyone by surprise after winning their past six matches with what has become their trademark resolute defense. Their impressive recent form is thanks in large part to the performances of winger Mata’utia and second-rower Matthews who have stepped up to first-grade football in a big way from the Dragons’ feeder team, the Illawarra Cutters.
This Sunday’s highly-anticipated contest – which is set to be broadcast live on Channel Nine at 1:30pm – isn’t the first time this year that Mata’utia and Matthews were part of a big occasion. The pair were part of the Dragons’ gritty 14-12 victory against the highly-favoured Sydney Roosters on Anzac Day in front of nearly 40,000 fans.
Being a part of the Anzac Day match with the competition’s leading team was the furthest thing from Mata’utia’s mind before the start of the season
“It was crazy,” Mata’utia said. “Unbelievable, it’s really hard to explain.
“I was just trying to concentrate on having a good pre-season to earn a starting spot for round one which didn’t happen but I just kept training hard and I was lucky to play (first grade).”
On their hot form, Matthews said, “It’s been pretty good so far. We’re going well for the past six weeks where we’ve won every game. Personally, I had a slow start to the year with injury and suspension but the last few weeks have been good.”
It’s always an epic showdown whenever NSW and Queensland are involved in setting the stage for players to impress on a big occasion.
“It means a lot to play this Sunday,” Mata’utia said. “I’m off contract this year and I’ve grown up playing for NSW during my school years. I love playing these tough games against Queensland and looking forward to it.”
It’s the second time around for Matthews who is excited to lace up the boots again for NSW with no love lost for Queensland. “It’s a massive honour and these are the type of games you want to play in,” Matthews said. “There’s always a lot of energy and intensity so it’s a good test. Personally, I want to try to get the win again.”
There’s no doubt that Mata’utia is ready to embrace the challenge and make the most of his opportunity. He’s leaving it all out on the field in paving the way for future generations. “I just want to do my best,” Mata’utia said. “When I retire, I don’t want to look back and say I didn’t give it my all. I also want to open pathways for my kids and my nephews to have a chance for themselves.”
Both Mata’utia and Matthews are extremely motivated to earn regular first-grade roles in the NRL.
“To grab a permanent spot at the Dragons is the goal at this stage,” Matthews said. “I’m trying to be a consistent first grader and working hard to earn my spot there.”
If the Dragons’ hot streak to the top of the NRL table is anything to go by, Mata’utia and Matthews most certainly look the part of premier footballers.