Mateo ready to hand Foran's job back
One of the shining lights for Manly over their past two games has been the sparkling form of ball-playing back-rower Feleti Mateo filling in for the injured Kieran Foran at five-eighth, but the man himself is just waiting to step aside.
Mateo was one of Manly's best in a narrow, injury-hit 16-12 loss to the Bulldogs at Brookvale on Friday night, scoring one try set-up by his halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans, kicking well, constantly threatening the line and fitting into Manly's sweeping attacking structures on their rare chances at the Bulldogs' line.
But with first-choice five-eighth Foran due back in the next week or two, Mateo – once a first-choice five-eighth at both Parramatta and the Warriors – is only too ready to step aside.
"I know it's only temporary; hopefully getting Kieran back next week and I'll happily step aside and find a place somewhere else in the team and keep trying to play good footy," Mateo told NRL.com.
He said he had barely even trained there as a back-up over the off-season, instead focusing on his back row combination with – as chance would have it – Foran, on Manly's left edge.
"It hurts us when he's not playing, so it will be good to have him next week," Mateo said.
"I've enjoyed my time playing there but like I said, we're looking forward to getting Kieran back."
Mateo was, however, happy to praise his halves partner of the past two weeks, Daly Cherry-Evans who was again monumental after a match-winning effort against the Storm the week before, laying on all three of his side's tries.
"He does so much for the team. Probably his running game is what surprised me, he does everything a normal halfback does but he's got a pretty strong carry and playing alongside him has been a joy," Mateo said.
"He's taking the line on and he's engaged in the game which is what you want."
Despite the efforts of the two halves, and another mostly impressive defensive outing from their unheralded pack, Mateo said the resilience shown by the team to hang in despite a raft of injuries was the only real positive. Skipper Jamie Lyon (leg strain) and back-rower Blake Leary (back strain) were ruled out prior to kick-off while both centres Brayden WIliame (concussion) and Steve Matai (elbow) spent time off the field.
"That [fighting spirit] is probably the only positive we took out of it – it was just pretty poor, you can't give a team like that so much possession and we paid in the end," Mateo said.
However he was still happy to praise the efforts of the forward pack.
"I take my hat off to those boys, they kept us in the game for most of it with their defence. We looked pretty solid on the line – they scored off a kick and a good long ball at the end so some really positive signs in 'D', we just have to keep the effort up."