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Knights back-rower Sione Mata'utia.

Cashed up and high on confidence, a young Sione Mata’utia nearly made a giant life mistake when he was set to flash the cash on a fancy new toy.

With minimal responsibility as a teenage footballer, Mata’utia was set to sign up for six years of car debt – but in stepped then-Newcastle coach Nathan Brown to save the day.

“He saved me from spending a bit of money one time,” Mata’utia says with a smirk.

“I was on the second year of my previous contract and I was going to buy a Mercedes. I was test driving it and chucked it up on Instagram.

“Browny’s missus saw it. I came into training the next day all chirpy and Nathan pulled me into his office and said, ‘You better be turning that car in and getting something cheaper’.

"I’m so glad he told me to because I ended up getting a Mazda CX-9 and even those repayments are killing me.

“The Merc was around $110,000 and I was thinking ‘six years, 400 a week, yeah I’ll be all right’ – little did I know I’d have electricity bills, land rates and more bills. I was only a young kid. 

"That’s the kind of coach he is, a coach who can mentor your life.”

This is just one of many examples of how Brown impacted his young Newcastle players during the past four years.

The Knights may have decided to head in a new direction in 2020 by not keeping Brown at the helm, but the outgoing coach will undoubtedly leave a lasting legacy at the club.

When Brown arrived in the Hunter in 2016, Mata’utia had already played a handy number of first-grade games and had even represented Australia as an 18-year-old, but he still didn’t know what it would take to be a professional footballer.

Former Knights coach Nathan Brown.
Former Knights coach Nathan Brown.

With prodigious talent, Mata’utia was touted at the next big thing, but he didn’t know how to handle himself. Off the field he was living for the weekend, caught up in a party lifestyle.

He’s grateful Brown stepped in and helped him.

“He’s done so much for me,” Mata’utia says.

“When he came to the club, I was a young kid, very immature. I didn’t know what it was like to be a first-grader. I was running on a bit of talent and luck coming into first grade.

“He’s taught me how to prepare for an NRL game and how to be an NRL player, but most importantly, he’s helped me transform my life off the field.

“He’s the first coach who focused on my off-field situation. He really cared. He changed me from living a party life to being a dad. He’s good like that. I’ll be forever grateful because he’s a big mentor for me.”

To read more, pick up your Big League from all good newsagents, supermarkets, the ground or magsonline.com.au/big-league.