Mata’utia ready to fight for his chance
Sione Mata'utia is prepared for whatever he has to do to crack a spot in the Newcastle Knights' 17 this year.
The addition of Jesse Ramien and Edrick Lee to the backline means the versatile second-rower will shift from the centres back to the forwards in 2019.
He's ready for the battle that lies ahead in securing his place in the line-up.
"At first I was a bit nervous and a bit worried, but once I got going I just needed to start working hard and start to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, which is knowing I've got to fight for a spot now," Mata'utia told The Daily Telegraph.
"It's pretty exciting, I actually like it. The unknown and relying on your hard work."
That players are now in a tussle to earn the nod from coach Nathan Brown is a welcome change for the Newcastle team.
Mata'utia must beat out the likes of Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Aiden Guerra and stave off up and comers like Beau Fermor to run out against Cronulla in round one.
But with 2018 one of his best and most consistent seasons ever, in terms of time on-field, he knows exactly what he needs to do to continue that this year.
"Me personally, I've got to get fitter and stay on the paddock a bit longer and play some consistent footy but you can't do that until you train well and show the coach I'm doing stuff off the field," he said.
"At the end of the day, the best team is going to play and we all want that one goal for the club which is that success at the end of the year and if I'm not in that team then I'll work my butt off to try to get back in there."
Expectation for success is high based on some big-name recruitment by the Knights.
For someone like Mata'utia - who debuted for the club in 2014 when Newcastle finished 12th then followed with three wooden spoons - the potential in the 2019 squad forces a physical reaction from him.
"It's pretty crazy, look, goosebumps."
What's even nicer for the Knights lifer, though, is to banish that word 'rebuilding' to the past.
"I definitely think the rebuilding phase, we're finally here and we need to start now," Mata'utia said.
"Instead of rebuilding we need to start looking at getting some success into the better part of the season and playing some September footy.
"With the squad we have there's definitely the potential, many teams have potential but it's just how we work hard and use that.
"I'm pretty excited. I'm with the whole town of Newcastle. You walk around and they're all excited as well."