It was a tough decision for the Newcastle Knights to make but Sione Mata’utia will head to England after signing with St Helens.
Mata’utia, who has recently struggled with concussions, was given a release from the final year of his contract to take up the deal.
Mata’utia’s career burst out of the blocks and he became the youngest player to don the Kangaroos jersey.
The local South Newcastle junior played in 124 games for the club and received praise from coach Adam O’Brien.
“Sione shares a wonderful history with the Knights, he’s a local junior who made an NRL and Kangaroos debut in the same year, becoming the youngest player to achieve this milestone,” O’Brien said.
“He’s been a great servant for the club, in both good and tough times, while his attitude and commitment both on and off the field have always been outstanding.”
With the chance to sign elsewhere, the Knights were not about to stand in his way.
“We are really pleased to see him get an opportunity to extend his career in England and the chance to travel with his family,” continued O’Brien.
“He is a great young man, who leaves the club with the highest regard.
“Everyone at the Knights wishes him all the best for the future.”
After speaking with his brother, Sione decided that St Helens was the best place for him and the rest was history.
“I am really excited,” Mata’utia said.
“I have been at the Knights since I was a junior so it was hard to leave, but it is an exciting move.
“I have heard nothing but good things about Saints from my brother and if I was moving to England it was definitely to Saints.
“I love the pressure of always trying to be the best and at the top is what excites me.
“People expect Saints to be at the top and I can’t wait to be a part of it.
Mata’utia is no stranger to St Helens Kristian Woolf and knows what to expect of him from 2021 onwards.
“I have known Kristian Woolf for a long time since he coached me at the Knights and I have got along with him really well,” Mata’utia continued.
“He is an honest man and that is what I like about him and his coaching.
“Firm feedback is what takes my footy to the next level and I am looking forward to working with him.”
Woolf praised Sione’s work ethic and ability having coached him previously.
“Sione is a terrific person and I know that because I have coached him,” Woolf said.
“He is a really good trainer and professional in regard to how he goes about his work.
“He is a good player and we see him as a bloke who can come in and play in the forwards for us and give us some real speed around the ruck as he has a good skill set.”
Woolf also expects Mata’utia to impact the side defensively as he looks to fit into their structure.
“He can also play on an edge and offer us some ‘punch’ out there,” Woolf continued.
“He is a real strong defender too and he ticks a lot of boxes for us on and off the field.
“He will work really hard and want to make an impact on the side and he is going to fit into the group really well.”