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Storm centre Justin Olam.

Powerhouse Storm centre Justin Olam credits former Sea Eagles star Steve Matai for helping him become a fearsome proposition.

In a recent fans poll two-time premiership-winning Matai was voted by 80,000 fans as the hardest hitter of the last 30 years.

Olam stands at just 178cm and weighs in at 92kg. Matai, at 182cm and 94kg, was no Mal Meninga in size, but he hit like a freight train. Olam wanted to be just like that.

The 26-year-old had always wanted to be a centre and was a keen watcher of Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges during his years as a university student.

"With my size, I knew I couldn’t play like them so I tried to base my game on Steve Matai of Manly," Olam said after scoring a hat-trick in last weekend's 30-6 win over Manly.

"I loved his aggression in defence, and that is what I wanted to be like. He gave me the faith that if a player of his size he can do it, then I can do it as well.

Olam pays his respects to Boseman

"I started playing when I was 18 and didn't play NRL until 2018 when he had already retired.

"I had watched Matai play NRL and when I was at university I had all these highlight clips of players. I would watch the clips, but I'd always finish with Matai and his tackles."

Olam could see the irony of his long-time idol being a Sea Eagles legend, a club the Storm love to hate.

The infamous "Battle of Brookvale" and consecutive grand finals meetings in 2007 and 2008 set that mutual loathing in stone.

Former Manly and New Zealand representative Steve Matai.
Former Manly and New Zealand representative Steve Matai. ©NRL Photos

Olam's admiration for Matai has not resulted in him doing Manly any favours. His hat-trick on Sunday was the second of his career, with his first also against the Sea Eagles in round 24 last year.

Olam's partnership with Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr and the sweeping injection of Ryan Papenhuyzen on his left edge, has been dynamite in 2020.

"We have worked really hard on getting those combinations right,” Olam said.

"I am trying to play off the halves and the fullback a bit more rather than just going for a carry. A big part of my game is still to run hard and I will be sticking at that but the other areas are flowing and I am working on my fitness so I can get involved more."

Olam, a PNG international, is also inspired by the impact made by former Storm winger and PNG star Marcus Bai who was a member of the inaugural title-winning Melbourne side in 1999.

"Whenever we have an Old Boys reunion he always comes to Melbourne so I always meet him there," Olam said.

Olam has a double

"He is a Storm legend and the inspiration for all PNG boys. He came into the NRL and he owned his position.

"That is what made me feel at home when I came to the Storm. I knew Marcus had made an impact here and it is my turn to carry his name I guess."

Olam has a degree in applied physics where he majored in electronics. His own brand of physics -  hitting hard and often in attack and defence -  is firing him towards replicating Bai's achievement of 21 years ago.

"I want to do that as well. I had a chance last year but the Roosters beat us [in the preliminary final]. I really want to get a ring. That will be the highlight of my career," Olam said.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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