Matagi the Eels' new strike weapon

Parramatta Eels centre Brad Takairangi believes new recruit Suaia Matagi is the added strike power the side lacked following the exit of Junior Paulo to the Raiders midway through last season.

The arrival of Matagi, hard-running forward Nathan Brown and veteran back-rower Frank Pritchard has added some much needed size to the Eels forward pack, who ran through the Sea Eagles in their eight-point win at Lottoland on the weekend.

Matagi (158 metres) and skipper Tim Mannah (173 metres) led the way for the visitors up front, with Brown (156) and interchange forward Daniel Alvaro (138) providing yardage off the bench.

Second-rower turned centre Takairangi had a prime view of the collision between Matagi and Sea Eagles forward Martin Taupau on the weekend, and said he was not surprised the former Panther bounced back up to his feet at an instance. 

"It was big… he (Matagi) doesn't feel it, he just kept running no matter who was in front of him he runs at 100 per cent," Takairangi said after training on Wednesday.

"That's him for you, I think he's run at bigger people in his lifetime, it doesn't matter who's standing in front of him, he's ready to go.

"Someone like Tungs (Matagi) brings so much aggression and it's awesome to play of the back of that.

"The energy and hit-ups he's brought to our team is the punch that I reckon we semi-lacked last year losing Junior [Paulo]."

 


The man himself played down the incident, which will see Taupau now serve a two-week suspension after the match review committee deemed the tackle a grade one shoulder charge.

"I'm not too sure [if it was a shoulder charge] but I just had to carry on and do my job, get back up and play the ball," Matagi said.

"That's part of the job, you've got to run hard and take your medicine if you get hit, so it was pretty good.

"I saw him (Taupau) coming because you see his big shoulders a mile away but it was good and that's part of rugby league.

"I've got to do a job the best way I can to inspire the boys and if I can help the team in any way I'll do it."

With the addition of Kangaroos forward James Tamou at the foot of the mountains, 28-year-old Matagi was left with no choice but to find another club after managing 23 appearances for the Panthers in 2016.

"The opportunity the Eels presented [was just too good] so one door closes and another one opens and I'm just thankful to them for giving me the opportunity," he said.

"It was something I worked hard on to get the opportunity [to start in the front row] and I was really thankful the coaching staff had faith in me and I just wanted to pay them back and perform."

It will be another challenge up front for the Eels, who take on a St George Illawarra outfit full of confidence after piling on 42 points against a lacklustre Panthers side in Round 1.

Takairangi said coach Brad Arthur wanted the players to back up their win against the Sea Eagles with another solid showing down in Wollongong on Sunday – their second of three away trips to start the season.

"He's been pretty big on consistency in the pre-season and taking it into our games now," Takairangi said.

"They (Dragons) come off a good win and know it's their home game; they'll be hungry again.

"We've got a lot of new combinations with a couple of new boys in the squad and I thought they added to what we have already.

"It doesn't mean anything if we can't back it up against the Dragons."