Suaia Matagi wasn't a name on the radar of many league fans at the start of the NRL season. But he's quickly made an impact for the Warriors after conquering his off-field demons.
From hitting it up with his son and daughter to taking on the NRL's best, Matagi is loving life as a Warrior.
"It's a dream come true to just be in the environment, to be able to do something I really love," he says. "I'm just really blessed."
It's a dream that would have looked a long way off from a cell in Manawatu Prison, serving a year for assault. But with the support of family, faith and footy, Matagi's turned his life around.
"I learned everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance. I've sure got a second chance and doing everything I possibly can to use it."
An NRL rookie at the ripe old age of 25, it's proved worth the wait.
"It has definitely been a hard road, but I just put it down to hard work, putting your head down and keep working towards your goal. At the end of the day that door is going to finally open if you keep knocking on it."
Coach Matt Elliott says the prop's perseverance is testimony to his character.
"For anyone who finds themselves in a tough situation I think he could be used as inspiration," says Elliott. "But for us, more importantly, it's how his footy's developed."
One of the fastest Warriors over 10 metres, Matagi's hitting defence lines at breakneck pace, reviving memories of Warriors cult heroes Hitro Okesene and Iafeta Paleaasina.
"They call him the Terminator, the way he runs," says Warriors utility Dominique Peyroux. "If clubs were a bit smarter, they wouldn't kick it down his side."He was playing domestic footy last season, showing off skills not normally associated with the front row. And he's been able to do the same at NRL level, even being confused with one of the club's playmakers.
"It was pretty funny when they said it," says Matagi. "I don't mind being called Mateo!"
But the way he's introducing himself to opposition defensive lines, they're learning Matagi's name the hard way.
source: newshub archive