Penrith prop Suaia Matagi is using the lessons learned from his troubled past to set him on his path for life after football, and he has the Panthers to thank.
While Matagi's main priority remains rugby league, the 28-year-old New Zealand international has been busily chipping away at completing a Certificate IV in Youth Work with an eye to successfully gain his diploma in 2017.
Describing youth and career development as a passion of his, Matagi's chequered teenage years combined with his profile as an NRL player has provided the perfect mix to help empower troubled kids in Western Sydney.
Matagi recently finished up a six-week period spent delivering programs in line with his course at Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre alongside Panthers teammates Sitaleki Akauola and Leilani Latu.
There he received further affirmation of what life is to set bring when his time in the NRL is over.
"We teach them that their life isn't over. A lot of them just made some bad choices and so I tell them that we have all made bad choices in life and that they have to pick themselves off the ground," Matagi told NRL.com.
"It's the good thing about life. You will get a second chance at it. When they do get released I tell them to get back out there.
"I shared a bit of my story as well and told them their past doesn't have to determine their future.
"In these cases why wouldn't I use my profile? I understand the key role I play as an NRL player so if I can help out one person out there then I'm doing my job.
"In that sense, the club has been really good for me. I'm really thankful for the Panthers for giving me these opportunities."
Matagi's development off the field is a big reason why he wants to remain a Panther beyond this season.
Matagi has an option in his contract to remain at the foot of the mountains for the 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership but is unsure of his playing future beyond that at this stage.
"I can't really confirm where my future lies. Hopefully I can stay. It's an awesome club and it's been good to see where the club is heading," Matagi said.
"It's been good to come in every day because it's such a blessing. It's a dream job so you appreciate everything. Everything we take care of itself eventually I'm sure."
Matagi has featured 22 times for the Panthers but in hindsight appreciates the decision made by coach Anthony Griffin to drop him to the Intrust Super Premiership midway through the season.
With fellow Penrith forwards Reagan Campbell-Gillard (back) and Sam McKendry (knee) gone for the season, Matagi has started in the front row for his past nine games and his stint in reserve grade has played a huge role in that.
"Everyone has had to step up and do it for [McKendry and Campbell-Gillard] and the club because you can't take anything for granted at this club," Matagi said.
"I'm pretty thankful Hook (Griffin) dropped me because it gave me an opportunity to have a look at things again and see what I could do to be better.
"It doesn't become any easier though either. The Canberra Raiders are waiting."
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