Alcohol off limits for Matulino but kava hits spot
Driven ... Ben Matulino. Photo: Getty Images
A PRE-SEASON pledge with teammate Manu Vatuvei to quit alcohol for the entire 2012 NRL campaign is one of the driving forces behind the emergence of Warriors prop Ben Matulino as one of the game's premier front-rowers.
Despite the Warriors' stuttering start to the season, Matulino is arguably in the form of his life and revealed a pact with Vatuvei to stay off the booze was one of the reasons for his success. Through the first nine rounds this season, 12-Test Kiwi Matulino has been a standout in a Warriors side that is still trying to rediscover last year's mojo.
Time and again, the 23-year-old tops the statistics for metres gained and is cited by opposition players and coaches as the danger man in a giant Warriors pack. Off the field, it appears Matulino has been making similarly large strides and admitted yesterday a self-imposed alcohol ban had done wonders for his game.
The idea was first floated by Vatuvei, who kept away from the bottle throughout the 2010 season before slipping back into what he calls bad habits last year.
''This year, I've gone down Manu's track a bit,'' Matulino said. ''He's not drinking for the year and I've decided to take on that challenge as well. That's a big improvement for me from last year when I didn't mind having a drink after the game. Our team isn't going as well as we'd like so I think it's a good idea that I stay away from the drink.
''It's the first time I've done it and hopefully I can stay strong and make it all the way to the end of the season.''
Matulino admitted passing up the opportunity to partake in a cold one was ''hard'' but said he hadn't even felt the urge to have a drink for weeks.
His decision is one Vatuvei believes reveals how much the talented prop has matured.
''He's been really awesome this season. He's been a big factor in our forward pack and he and Russell Packer have been hammering it up and getting massive yards,'' Vatuvei said.
''I spoke to him about what I did a few years ago and that I wanted to do it again this season.
''Two years ago, I decided not to drink for the whole season and it was something that worked really well for me. Last year, I went off it a bit but realised that the drinking is something I've got to sacrifice, especially for my family and this team.
''Benny wanted to jump on board with it this year and he's been doing really well. I'm really happy for him. He's matured so much and one day when he has his own family, he'll probably realise how important this move is.''
While alcohol might be off the menu, Vatuvei said he and Matulino had no qualms about knocking back a few kavas after matches.
Carrying on a tradition that was started by club legend Ruben Wiki, the winger has taken it upon himself to arrange kava-drinking sessions with his teammates.
That includes packing his kava bowl alongside his Playstation for every trip across the Tasman.