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Mateo's 50 one in the eye for doubters

By Ian McCullough 20/03/2009 07:04:44 AM Comments (0)

Parramatta utility Feleti Mateo hopes news of his 50th NRL appearance against South Sydney on Friday will make uncomfortable reading for those who doubted his ability to make it as a first grade player.

After being told by former Eels coach Brian Smith five years ago he was not good enough to play in the NRL, Mateo has since proved himself to be one of the game's most versatile and talented players.

"That was a difficult time for my career back then," Mateo said on Thursday.

"I didn't think I'd make it in first grade and it took me a long time to get back.

"I owe (former Eels coach) Michael Hagan a lot credit for what he has done for me and giving me the opportunity and it is great to give it to everyone who said I wouldn't make it or get this far.

"Hopefully I have only better things to come.

"I feel that I have a point to prove and .. I am doing it for my friends and family who have supported me all the way."

The 24-year-old Tonga international is also hopeful of playing State of Origin for NSW this year, something he said he could never have imagined after he was farmed out on loan to former English Super League club London Broncos in 2005.

Mateo was in contention for selection last season but his refusal to turn his back on playing for Tonga in the World Cup saw him miss out.

"I've always wanted to play Origin and hopefully I can put my best foot forward this season to play it," he said.

"When the issue comes up again with changing my allegiance I'll deal with it then.

"I am not quite sure when I have to decide by ... it is something I will discuss with my manager and the club but at the moment I am just focused on playing well enough to even be considered."

Mateo, who spent most of last season playing at five-eighth, returned to forwards for the Eels' season-opening 26-18 defeat to the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland and although he said he's happy to play anywhere, he relished a return to the pack.

"Playing in the forwards means a lot more hard work but I want to stand up and be one of the leaders in this team and the only way to do that is through my actions," he said.

Daniel Anderson's side face an ultra-confident Souths side who come into Friday's game on the back of a 52-12 win over the Sydney Roosters and Mateo is expecting another tough encounter at ANZ Stadium.

"Souths had a great game last week and not a lot went wrong for them but we played very well in the second half in Auckland and hopefully we can continue from where we left off and stop them in their tracks," he said.

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