Confident Mata'utia honoured by 'Roos call-up
Every now and then a rugby league story comes along that tugs at the heartstrings.
This one is about an 18-year-old calling his mum to tell her he will be playing rugby league for his country.
Sione Mata’utia made that very call on Wednesday night after it was confirmed the winger would become the youngest-ever player to pull on the Kangaroos jersey.
Mata’utia will break Israel Folau’s record by 64 days after Folau eclipsed Brad Fitler when he debuted against New Zealand with a two-try performance in 2007.
The kid from Liverpool, NSW was on cloud nine before Thursday’s training session and revealed his family felt quite the same.
“I rang my mum and my sister last night and they couldn’t believe it either,” said Mata’utia.
“They were shocked, they didn’t believe me at the start and a few tears were shed too. They’re just really happy for me.
“To be amongst the likes of Brad Fitler and Israel Folau, players I looked up to, when I say it I don’t believe it really but after this weekend it will probably sink in.”
With just seven NRL games to his name Mata’utia has barely dipped his toe in the water at first grade level, let alone mixed it with the best the world has to offer.
Being overawed by the occasion could perhaps be understandable for a player who only a few months ago could legally sit the test for his driver’s license.
Yet despite a crowd of more than 20,000 fans expected to fill AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon, the Newcastle young gun hopes to treat the occasion like any other game.
“I don’t really get nervous,” said Mata’utia.
“The players around me like Cooper Cronk and Greg Inglis, they make your job that much easier so I’m feeling pretty confident but I’m sure once I get to the field I’ll be getting a few shivers.
“It means a lot to play for my country. One of my dreams was to play for Australia and I’m truly honoured and proud to pull on the jersey this weekend.
“This jersey is not taken for granted for me, I’ve still got a job to do.”
That he does, given a another loss for the Kangaroos on Sunday would see them miss the final of an international tournament for the first time since 1954.
The last time England and Australia met in the Four Nations was the 2011 final in Leeds, which the Kangaroos dominated with a 30-8 victory.
There would be no better way for the English to avenge that humiliation than to return the favour on Australian soil.
Australia and England will lock horns at 4pm this Sunday at AAMI Park in Melbourne.