After much speculation regarding his future, Steve Matai now has it all sorted, as he opted to re-sign with the Manly Sea Eagles for another two seasons.
The 2-year extension will see the veteran centre stay with Manly until the end of 2017, who is regarded as one of the best centres in the game at the present time.
Whilst Matai admits that the decision was a hard one to make, it was his family that proved to be the telling factor, with his kids starting school very soon in the area.
“It was a very hard decision but it was one made that my family would be happy,” said Matai.
“We don’t have to relocate and the kids start school next year, so that was a big part. Family played a big part and we’re all happy that I’m staying here a couple more years.”
With the essence of loyalty in the NRL sometimes a dying art, the prospect of remaining a one-club player is something that resonates with Matai.
“Yeah, it doesn’t happen too often these days, a one-club player,” said Matai.
“I’m happy that I’m here for another two years and get to wear the maroon and white that I love so much.
Coming off a stellar 2014 season, Matai’s pre-season has given him a chance to recover from injury niggles as he looks forward to the season ahead and getting back on the park.
“Now that all the negotiations are done, I can focus on my rehab, getting the shoulder right,” said Matai.
“The focus is now on all the training and rehab on getting my shoulder right, so fingers crossed, we’ll be there come Rd 1.”
Retaining Matai was always a priority for Manly and whilst CEO Joe Kelly admits interest by other clubs, he knew the club would push hard to retain the veteran centre.
â€œWe identified Steve as a really important part of our retention strategy this season,” said Kelly.
“Weâ€™re absolutely delighted that heâ€™s made the decision to stay with us until the end of 2017, as heâ€™s one of the most damaging and powerful players in our game.”
â€œFor Sea Eagles Members and fans to know they wonâ€™t have to worry about seeing Steve line-up against the Club over the next few seasons is extremely pleasing. To also see Steve remain a one-club player in this era, really does put him in very elite company and is a special achievement.â€
Knowing just how effective he can be on the field, Manly coach Geoff Toovey was also pleased to see the veteran re-sign.
â€œItâ€™s wonderful news for Steve and wonderful news for the Club. Heâ€™s a fantastic athlete and showed everyone again last season how influential he is to our side,â€ Toovey said.
â€œItâ€™s not just how brutal he can be in defence, as heâ€™s a far more well-rounded footballer than that. In attack he was our second highest try-scorer, made the most tackle busts and averaged almost 120m per-game. In any language, those stats are immense and a testament to how much he puts on the line each week.â€
â€œWeâ€™re very lucky to have now have the two best, most experienced centres in the game right now locked up for the next few years. As a coach, you canâ€™t be much happier than that,â€ he added.