Matulino in awe of Lisone's skill
He was paired with the young Warriors prop in order to fast-track his development but Kiwi prop Ben Matulino says he is the one learning new things from tearaway front-rower Sam Lisone.
In a difficult start to the season for the New Zealanders Lisone's contributions from the bench have been one of the few shining lights despite only receiving limited minutes from coach Andrew McFadden.
Having played 28 minutes against the Wests Tigers in Round 1 the 22-year-old was introduced in the 30th minute against Brisbane last Friday night and was replaced 10 minutes after half-time, a shoulder injury keeping him from making a return later in the game.
When he made his NRL debut in Round 1 last year at just 21 years of age Lisone roomed with Matulino and the pair have been together ever since.
Matulino made his NRL debut as a 19-year-old in Round 14 of the 2008 season, but rather than passing on any knowledge to the younger prop he is watching the Warriors' 2014 NYC Player of the Year closely to add things to his own game.
"I don't really mentor him; he can do stuff way better than me," Matulino told NRL.com. "He's probably helping me out.
"He's got great footwork, he's probably our quickest prop and probably the prop that can pass the best so if anything we're trying to keep up with him.
"I was roommates with him last year as well and we spend a lot of time together off the field and at training as well.
"He's pretty quiet [as a roommate]. He asks about all the players and that and what it was like back in the days and all that.
"He keeps me on my toes and gets me out of bed as well. I'm the early riser but he always likes doing stuff, getting out of the hotel and walking around so I just follow him around.
"I'm like his little shadow."
With 175 NRL games under his belt and 23 Tests for New Zealand Matulino is perfectly placed to monitor Lisone's transition into the top grade after a stellar under-20s career which included a place in the 2014 Holden Cup Team of the Year.
Many players who come through the under-20s competition come to the public's attention through their extraordinary attacking abilities and natural talent but Matulino – himself a NYC Team of the Year member in 2008 – said it was not the way to earn true respect in the NRL.
"It's not always about the big play," said Matulino.
"I found out pretty fast that you can do all the fancy stuff but if you do all the small stuff in the game you get a lot more respect from the boys than doing the big fancy plays.
"For me, that's the best thing I learned and just taking everything on board when you're young because even now for me there's always stuff to learn.
"He's got a bright future. Everyone knows how aggressive he is off the bench and it's something that we need in the team.
"He brings a lot of energy and picks guys up so it's going to be good to see what he'll be like in a couple of years.
"He'll be a lot more mature and just learn how to put his energy in the right place. I'm excited to see how it works out for him."