Pat Mata’utia is no stranger to playing in the middle, having switched from the centres to second row in Reserve Grade for the nib Newcastle Knights last year.
In 2018, the focus will again be in the forwards for the 25-year-old, but with a whole host of new recruits, there’s no shortage of experienced players to turn to for advice.
“I’ve got plenty of players around me that have helped me out, like Daniel Saifiti who has been in the middle for a while and some experienced players such as Heino (Chris Heighington) and big Ox (Jacob Lillyman),” Mata’utia explained.
“I have played second row in Reserve Grade and for a while now so I’m definitely getting the hang of it but it’s always good to have someone there just helping me out.”
And with a 103-kilogram frame, Mata’utia didn’t have to change much for the transition.
“I was above the weight at centre anyway so didn’t have to change my weight,” he admitted.
“Just trying to get used to the fitness in the middle because there’s a lot more work and it’s harder than on the edges.
“I have got a lot of tips off the boys; Herman (Ese’ese) coming from (Brisbane) Broncos and Griff (Slade Griffin) coming from a strong club at Melbourne and even though he doesn’t play in that position, he understands how it all works.”
A regular in the Reserve Grade side last year, Mata’utia has high hopes this year he’ll be able to add to his 14 NRL appearances from 2016.
But with international and NRL experience in the 2018 ISP side, the versatile Knight knows he’ll be soaking up all the knowledge and experience in either squad.
“We have two teams at training and we’re looking pretty solid,” said Mata’utia.
“Having some of the Fijian players that have played in the World Cup is a big help as well.”
While Mata’utia admits the pre-season has been a lot tougher than in previous years, he has learnt a lot.
“Tony (Ayoub) is doing some good work, even though we don’t like it,” smiled Mata’utia.
“It has been helping me out and the boys with their fitness, but also bringing the experience to help out with the skills as well.
“The opposed sessions have been a big help especially leading up to Round 1, getting that game fitness and trying to build combinations and better connection on the field.”
Meanwhile, the second youngest Mata’utia brother has been doing it tough off the field as well.
Like a few of his teammates, including brother Sione who recently had his first child, Mata’utia become a father of two just over a month ago to baby Mycah.
“I haven’t been getting much sleep, but my partner has been doing most of the work, although I still have to wake up to help,” said Mata’utia.
“I was stoked when I first found out my partner was pregnant and then to have our baby made me even more happy.”
It adds to an already big Mata’utia family.
“This is my second, he’s the 17th grandchild in the family and my sister just had one, so she was the 18th; we’re definitely building our family.”
The 25-year-old jokingly saying he hopes his three-year-old son will be a big help to dad as baby Mycah grows up.
“When he’s a little bit older, maybe he can give dad a bit of a break,” he laughed.
“Hopefully he starts to learn off his mum, not off me, and helps around the house a bit.”