Rugby League

Suaia Matagi is putting in the hard yards for Penrith long before NRL kick-off

Penrith recruit Suaia Matagi has hammered himself over the festive season, but not with an excessive amount of food and drink.

The rugged prop, who has represented New Zealand and Samoa, has done many hours of "extras" away from official Panthers training to ensure he will dent opposition defensive lines when the season kicks off and nominated the most torturous effort so far as running the dreaded South Coogee stairs.

"It was difficult leaving the club that has done so much for me": Suaia Matagi.
"It was difficult leaving the club that has done so much for me": Suaia Matagi. Photo: Lawrence Smith

The 240-plus stairs that seem to climb forever have humbled some of Australasia's toughest athletes over the years, and Matagi says driving from deep in Sydney's western suburbs at the crack of dawn to attack them with his manager, former Kiwi international Tyran Smith, is about as appealing as root canal surgery. "I've been doing extras at home and on top of that I've been doing the stairs at Coogee at least once a week and while it's tough it's also great," he said. "It never gets easier – believe me on that – but the hard work makes me feel as though I'll get a result."

Matagi was praised by Sydney Roosters hard nut Jared Waerea-Hargreaves when the quietly spoken father of four was called upon to replace him during last season's finals series due to an injury.

Rugged recruit: The Panthers’ Suaia Matagi.
Rugged recruit: The Panthers’ Suaia Matagi. Photo: Lawrence Smith

"We call him either the back fence or up the guts because he starts his runs on the back fence and runs up the guts," said Waerea-Hargreaves last September. "We know what we're going to get from him and he's been doing that – and more – each week. Suaia is a bull, he's fearless and he just wants to do his part for the team."

Matagi said those words had inspired him to make his time with the Anthony Griffin-coached Panthers really count and apart from the extra training he's been mindful of his diet over the Christmas break and proudly proclaimed he was a lean, mean 107 kilograms.

"[Charging into the opposition's defensive line] is the biggest part of my game and I want to bring it to Penrith," he said. "A good run and offload can help a lot in attack. People ask me how I psyche myself up do my runs but to me it's an expression ... it's me telling my teammates I'll do all I can to help them get results.

"To hear those comments from Jared, and he's someone who I look up to, meant so much and I want to build upon what he noticed. I'm looking forward to the season's kick-off because I want to put all of this hard work into action.

"I'm definitely thankful for the opportunity and I'm looking forward to ripping in for Penrith, that's why I've also been very careful with what I've eaten over the Christmas break."

When Penrith chief executive Phil Gould announced the club had signed the international he said Matagi would be an invaluable leader and wanted to be involved in the club's well received community projects and help steer vulnerable children onto the right path.