Matai vows to repay debt - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Matai vows to repay debt

Steve Jancetic 29/04/2011 03:13:06 PM Comments (0)

Steve Matai's form has him on the brink of a return to the New Zealand Test side, but the Manly centre is more concerned with paying off a debt to his Sea Eagles teammates.

Rubbed out of the opening four games of the NRL season thanks to a high tackle ban carrying over from last year, Matai has taken it upon himself to lift the Sea Eagles out of their early season doldrums with some typically robust displays.

"I had a talk with the boys and made it clear that when I came back I was going to repay them by working hard and playing hard," Matai told AAP, the Sea Eagles unbeaten since his return three weeks ago.

"Hopefully I've done that the last three weeks, but hopefully it's going to carry on the rest of the season."

And last year's rather regular run-ins with the NRL judiciary have done little to quell his uncompromising style - with Matai crediting his sustained aggressive approach to the support of coach Des Hasler.

Matai was rubbed out for ten games for a total of three high tackles in 2010 - the 26-year-old banned for three games for two high tackles against Parramatta in round 10 before copping seven matches for a late hit on Canterbury hooker Michael Ennis in the final round.

Matai claimed the suspensions had more to do with fitness rather than poor technique as he vowed to maintain the rage against North Queensland on Saturday night.

"I've had a talk with Dessie and he's made it clear to me that he doesn't want me to change my game," Matai said.

"It's just when I get lazy, get tired, I start putting my arm out there.

"But now that my fitness is pretty good, I'm getting my timing back, now I'm quite confident I'll be okay - Dessie doesn't want me to change so I'm not going to change at all."

It's a statement which should be music to the ears of Kiwi Test coach Stephen Kearney, with Matai battling it out with incumbents Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Simon Mannering, plus Newcastle powerhouse Junior Sa'u for the centre berths against Australia next Friday night, the squad to be named on Sunday.

Matai and Sa'u were the New Zealand centres in last year's mid-year Test against the Kangaroos, with Matai desperate to reclaim a start.

"I was gutted that I missed the Four Nations (through suspension), I was very disappointed but there was no-one to blame but myself," he said.

"It's one of my short-term goals to get back and play Test footy - hopefully I can get back in that side."

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