Mata'utia Eyes Rep Future From Back Row
Australia's youngest-ever Test player, Sione Mata'utia, is comfortable with his shift from the backline to back row and is hoping it doesn't put his representative dreams in doubt.
Called up for the Kangaroos on the wing amid a slew of backline injuries after just seven top-grade games at the age of 18 in the 2014 Four Nations, Mata'utia made a promising transition to the back row under new coach Nathan Brown at the Knights in 2016.
Still just 20, Mata'utia is primed to do everything he can to help Newcastle avoid a third straight wooden spoon as their rebuilding phase enters what the club hopes will be a time that starts yielding positive results.
"You can definitely see where the coaches are going and what their goals are," Mata'utia told NRL.com.
"Definitely the boys that debuted last year are a lot better for it this year and having a bit more experience with Rory Kostjasyn and Jamie Buhrer – Josh Starling is another young fella that's got some experience – I think that will help.
"Hopefully we go well and look forward to recruiting a little bit more and re-signing the young blokes and the youth and depth that we have we haven't had for a long time in Newcastle."
Mata'utia confirmed his immediate future lies in the back row, where he has been named to start alongside new recruit Jamie Buhrer in the club's final trial this weekend against Canberra.
"Obviously I have experience in the centres so if they need me to go there I'll do so but at the end of the day I'll just do my best for the team and wherever they slot me I'll try and do my best but second row is probably what I'm looking at," he said.
It is looking like arguably the club's strongest position following the recruitment of Manly star Buhrer and former Kangaroo lock Anthony Tupou, along with the emergence of last year's mid-season recruit Mitch Barnett.
"The club's recruited really well and I think what they're going for is that rebuilding phase and some young players coming through and Jamie Buhrer's been outstanding in leading, he's just a natural leader," Mata'utia said.
"Since day dot he's been leading from the front. I think his experience is going to be something we're really going to thrive off and I can't wait to play alongside him."
While Mata'utia's first priority is helping Newcastle, rep footy is definitely still at the forefront of his thinking.
"They say it starts at club footy but in the back of my mind I definitely am thinking about the Blues jersey and the Kangaroos jersey and hopefully to represent Samoa as well, that's definitely in my head as well," he said.
"You've got to play consistent footy at club level but my motivation to play in those representative sides is going to be a big help for me."
This article first appeared on NRL.com