Knights Flyer Sione Set for Season-Opener?
February 11, 2015
Newcastle back Sione Mata’utia had a remarkable rise to stardom last year but 2015 has gotten off to a shaky start. The Novocastrian flyer is still in some doubt for the Knights opening NRL match despite being cleared of any major damage to his ankle after injuring it at the Auckland Nines. It was first thought Mata’utia could be sidelined for an extended period this year but relief swept across the Newcastle camp after scans revealed the injury wasn’t as bad as initial fears.
Sione Mata’utia covered front pages and back pages of papers late last year when he became the youngest ever player to debut for Australia. At just 18 years and 129 days he represented the Kangaroos against England in the Four Nations. The teenager was 65 days younger than Israel Folau when he debuted against New Zealand in 2007. Mata’utia kept his place on the wing for the rest of Australia’s tournament which ultimately ended in defeat against New Zealand in the final.
Sione’s Rapid Rise in 2014
Months earlier Sione Mata’utia was a name not many had heard of nor would they dare try and pronounce. In fact the 18 year old hadn’t played an NRL match until then Knights coach Wayne Bennett gave him his first grade debut in round 20 against the Roosters. The tear-away back remained a regular in the team and announced himself to the NRL with a hat-trick against the Warriors in round 23. Mata’utia finished the season with 7 tries from 7 games and had shown enough promise to see him picked for Australia’s Prime Ministers XI side. After impressing against Papua New Guinea he earned a spot in Australia’s 4 Nations squad before capping a remarkable few months with that history making Kangaroos debut.
Newcastle’s New South Welshman?
Having already played for Australia Sione’s name will surely be at the forefront of New South Wales selectors’ minds for the Origin Series. He’s proven he can handle the big occasion despite his lack of experience. Mata’utia’s already impressed in the light blue scoring a try in the Cockroaches 30-8 win over the Maroons in the under 20s origin last year. He was a genuine star in the Toyota Cup last season before graduating to the NRL and was named in the Under 20 team of the year.
Knights Need a Better Beginning
Newcastle finished 12th last year 4 points off the finals spots. They won 5 of their last 7 games to finish the regular season as one of the competition’s form sides but only 5 victories up to round 20 was never going to be enough to see them threaten the top 8. A better beginning to 2015 and Newcastle could find themselves in the finals.