Rugby League


Mateo right at home as he sets sights on Origin

Warriors back-rower Feleti Mateo says leaving Parramatta was the best move of his career but admits having sympathy for close friends Jarryd Hayne and Tim Mannah following the Eels' poor start to the NRL season.

Mateo grew up supporting the Eels and said playing more than 100 games for the club was a dream come true, before he was controversially allowed to join the Warriors at the end of the 2010 season.

The 28-year-old's departure at the time was lamented by many frustrated supporters, who blame the team's current plight on a dismal recruitment policy.

Parramatta has lost seven of its first eight games, and defeat to Canterbury at ANZ Stadium tonight would make it the club's worst start to a season in 52 years and increase the pressure on under-fire coach Stephen Kearney.

And although Mateo admits playing across the Tasman could harm his hopes of breaking into the NSW side, he does not miss the goldfish bowl-like environment that comes with being a Parramatta player.

''I am loving it in Auckland - it's my home now,'' Mateo said.


''It was hard to leave Parramatta as I'd been there so long, but it looks like I've made the right choice.''

Sydney-born Mateo recently turned his back on playing for Tonga and rejected the chance to play for England by declaring his allegiance for Australia so he could qualify for New South Wales.

He played alongside Hayne and Mannah in the City Origin team in Mudgee two weeks ago.

The trio were all members of the Eels' grand final side in 2009 and Mateo said his former teammates were feeling the pain of their side's poor form and the negative reporting that goes with defeat.

''Talking to the Haynesy and Timmy, I have said 'I feel sorry for you guys','' he said.

''It's media non-stop whether it's good or bad. When I was there, you realise how full-on it is. And when you are away, you realise how bad it is. But they handle it really well and are very professional about it.''

Mateo has been tipped for NSW since making his first-grade debut in 2004 .

Despite being regarded as one of the best off-loaders in the NRL, Mateo concedes being in Auckland could work against him, with NSW selectors traditionally adopting an out of sight, out of mind policy. AAP