Matai wants to rebuild Manly culture
Veteran Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai wants to be a part of the rebuilding process at the northern beaches club, and in particular provide a mentoring role to younger Polynesian players coming through the ranks.
Unlike the recently departed forwards Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart, or departing halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, Matai has joined with club captain and centre partner Jamie Lyon, as well as hooker Matt Ballin, in committing the rest of his career to Manly.
"We know what the culture is here and whoever steps in is going to buy into that and hopefully do a good job for us," he said.
"We've still got our seniors here – Killer [Lyon], Brett [Stewart], Matty Ballin, myself, so we're here for another few years and if we get all the young guys to buy into the culture we'll be OK."
Matai recalled the assistance senior Polynesian players at Manly provided him early in his career and now hopes to return the favour for the growing number of up-and-coming Polynesian players in the Manly squad.
"I want to be that player they look up to and try and emulate. Hopefully I can be that player and I'm sure if they get on the back of that we'll be OK," he said.
"At the time it was Kylie Leuluai and John Hopoate when I came into grade. They were a big help for me and made things easier at training and helped me buy into what they had been doing here at Manly and it was an easy transition for me.
"I try and take that and apply it to the new guys coming through. The Ligis, [Ligi Sao] the Chee Kams [Michael Chee Kam], Jorge Taufua although he's been here for a couple of years now, Dunamis [Lui], there's a few other young boys coming through so hopefully they buy into this culture and I'm sure they have already and will lead us into the future.
"I think [Dunamis has improved since joining Manly] he's definitely bloomed here and that's come down to him, he's done a lot of hard work over the last two pre-seasons and been playing some awesome footy, runs hard, tackles hard and that's all we can ask from him."
Matai said there was a silver lining to the wave of early-season injuries to players such as himself and Lyon in that it gave some of the fringe players a chance early in the season – rather than potentially needing to blood them closer to the finals.
"We'd rather them get a start early in the year than later come semi-final time so it's good they can get that experience and I'm sure it will be better for them," he said.