Hitman Matai to play through pain
Hard-hitting Manly centre Steve Matai says he will continue to play through two separate injuries that would normally see him sidelined because everyone at the club is desperate to keep the balling rolling to earn a ticket into September.
Matai broke and dislocated his right index finger a month ago and had his nose broken by close mate Glenn Stewart against Souths a fortnight ago.
Speaking to journalists at the club's Narrabeen training base during the week with a reinforced sleeve protecting his finger, Matai said both injuries would normally be enough for a stint on the sidelines.
The damaging centre also joked the NRL's recent shoulder charge crackdown would play into his hands because it would weed out the "pretenders" from the genuine big hitters.
The finger just needs a six-week rest to recover properly, which won't happen at this stage, while the nose is still broken – as evidenced by Matai's obvious discomfort when copping a smaller whack across the face against Canberra last weekend.
"It's just something I've got to deal with I guess," he said, adding he probably wouldn't be playing this weekend if the side were out of finals contention.
"I'd probably take the six weeks off for the finger and the rest of the year off for the nose but we're playing some good footy so fingers crossed we get there," he said.
"We've got to win the last three games. Hopefully start this week with Parra, Roosters is a tough one then Sharks is a tough one too. At this time we're sort of focusing on this week and we'll get to those games when we come to it."
After a late fade-out against Canberra – the side led 18-0 then conceded four straight tries to fall behind before scoring a controversial late try (awarded despite try-scorer Brett Stewart coming from an offside position) to win – Matai said the side needed to get more ruthless against the battered Eels at Brookvale on Sunday.
"We sort of slipped away there, I think we were up 18-0 against the Raiders and we didn't kick on and that's something we all spoke about. Our energy levels weren't quite what they were but we want to fix it up this weekend and start to get ruthless," he said.
Matai admitted there is "a fine line" when it comes to the shoulder charge now but said his brother Taifau had been delighted when it was first made illegal.
"When it first got ruled out my brother said it was the best thing that ever happened for me," Matai said.
"I said 'what do you mean?', he said 'it takes all the pretenders out of the game' and I was like 'oh beauty'," he laughed.
"He said the genuine hitters will come to the fore, it's the best thing that ever happened to the game, it takes all the pretenders out of the game, you'll be at the top," Matai said, adding he'd never been one to try and put a shoulder charge on anyway.