Matai ready to rumble despite pain - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Matai ready to rumble despite pain

By Todd Balym 26/09/2008 05:18:39 PM Comments (0)

Manly centre Steve Matai has been playing with a busted shoulder for several weeks but won't use the injury as an excuse for his own self-rated "average" form.

The damaging Sea Eagles centre believes his defence has been lacking its usual venom recently but in a major warning to the New Zealand Warriors he wants to make amends in Saturday's NRL preliminary final at the Sydney Football Stadium.

"(My form) has been pretty average but just as a team it's been pretty good," Matai told AAP.

"(I need to) just probably tighten up on my defence. I think my defence has been pretty sloppy the last few weeks and I'm hoping to rectify that this weekend."

But his opponent Saturday, Warriors centre Brent Tate, thinks the total opposite of Matai's form in 2008.

He believes Matai has added variety to his attack this year and is more dangerous as a result.

"I have got a hell of a lot of respect for him. He is such a tough competitor and he doesn't do anything by halves," said Tate.

"He is probably one of the most physical centres you will play against.

"He has brought a lot more to his game this year with his footwork, and he is starting to score a lot of tries throughout the year, with his footwork and his speed."

The problem for 24-year-old Matai however has been while he is playing well he is doing so in pain.

His shoulder continues to play up and although he has physically overcome the neck injury which threatened his career last year, the mental scars remain.

"I definitely think I've been pretty lucky. The medical staff here have been good for me, they've looked after me and given me good advice," he said.

"Whenever they think I'm not fit to play they won't put me on and have looked after my neck well.

"You know once you've hurt it you don't want to do it again and you go into a tackle and sort of don't go in as hard.

"I've taken a lot of positives from the doctor who keeps telling me it is good.

"(There are) just some small niggly things that keep re occurring.

"I'm just looking forward to a break and hopefully I can get these injuries fixed.

"The neck is starting to come good hey, but my shoulder has been playing up a little bit."

With just two weeks left Matai says he no longer has to preserve his body and can unleash himself for the rest of the year.

But he will choose his victims wisely.

He didn't watch the Warriors win last week but has seen the damage his Kiwi Test teammate Ruben Wiki did to Roosters centre Sia Soliola.

Wiki knocked Soliola out with a brutal hit up and Matai, one of league's toughest defenders, is cautious about tackling his childhood idol.

"I've seen Sia come off second best against Ruben and I was like, 'Oh sh*t I hope he doesn't run at me'," said Matai.

"I would be getting out of the way if he was running at me."

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