Steve Matai

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Steve Matai
Personal information
Full name Stephen Matai
Nickname The Waterboy, The Hitman,[1] Skivy
Born (1984-08-05) 5 August 1984 (age 30)
Auckland, New Zealand
Height 182 cm (6 ft 0 in)
Weight 94 kg (14 st 11 lb)
Playing information
Position Centre, Five-eighth
Years Team Pld T G FG P
2005– Manly Sea Eagles 207 84 21 0 378
Years Team Pld T G FG P
2006–2010 New Zealand 10 1 4 0 12
Source: RLP

Stephen "Steve" Matai (born 5 August 1984 in Auckland, New Zealand) is a professional rugby league footballer for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles of the National Rugby League (NRL). He plays as a Centre and is a New Zealand international of Samoan heritage. He is the first cousin of former NRL player and fellow Kiwi international Junior Sa'u, though Sa'u has also represented Samoa.

Domestic career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Matai grew up in Auckland, New Zealand with former Warriors and ex-Kiwi team-mate Jerome Ropati.[2] He played rugby league for Mount Albert Grammar in the first XIII alongside Sonny Bill Williams and Thomas Leuluai.[3] Matai's junior clubs were the Bay Roskill Vikings, Ponsonby Ponies and Richmond Rovers in the Auckland Rugby League. Matai's senior club was Richmond Rovers before he was selected to play for the Marist Richmond Brothers in the Bartercard Cup, before leaving in 2004.[4][5]

Matai joined Queensland Cup side Ipswich Jets in 2004,[4] and credits his time spent at the Jets under the coaching of former Queensland, Eastern Suburbs and Brisbane Broncos hard man Trevor Gillmeister for his reputation as the NRL's "Hitman". Gillmeister, known as "The Axe" for his hard hitting defense, changed Matai's tackling style, teaching him to drive with his legs when making a tackle.[6]

In 2005 Matai moved to another Queensland Cup side, but soon left the Wynnum Manly Seagulls after securing an NRL contract with their associate club, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.[7]

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (2005-present)[edit]

Steve Matai celebrating victory for the Manly Sea Eagles

Matai joined the Manly Sea Eagles from the Wynnum Manly Seagulls in 2005 after impressing during a strong pre season of training and trials at the Brookvale Oval.[7]

On 27 March 2005 Matai made his NRL debut in the round 3 match against the Melbourne Storm at Brookvale Oval.[8]

Matai played in the 2007 NRL Grand Final defeat by the Melbourne Storm.[9]

Matai is an occasional goal kicker for the Sea Eagles.

He played in the 2008 NRL Grand Final victory over the Melbourne Storm.[10]

Matai travelled to England with the Sea Eagles and played in their 2012 World Club Challenge loss to the Leeds Rhinos before the start of the 2012 NRL season. Midway through the 2012 season, Matai was charged with a high tackle in a game against Penrith. It was his thirteenth trip to the NRL judiciary, equaling the record set by Michael Crocker.[11]

Matai started the 2013 NRL season playing at Left Centre and scoring 2 tries in Manly's 22-14 win over the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

With Manly sitting in 4th place after Round 17 of the 2013 NRL season, Matai had played in 14 games and scored 7 tries, bringing his career totals to 164 games and 62 tries for Manly. He was involved in a heated Round 17 clash with Parramatta Prop Mitchell Allgood in Manly's 50-10 win over the Eels at Brookvale Oval. In the 72nd minute of the game Allgood gave away a penalty with a swinging arm on Sea Eagles Second-rower Jamie Buhrer. The Manly centre ran 10 metres out of the line to remonstrate with Allgood who immediately let fly with three right hands to Matai's chin, earning himself 10 minutes in the sin-bin and a two-week suspension. Matai, who had already been suspended earlier in the season for a shoulder charge on South Sydneys George Burgess, was placed on report for inciting a melee but did not have to front the judiciary for a record 15th time.

Matai played in Manly's Grand Final clash against the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium. He scored a try in the 2nd Half of the game, but however Manly end-up losing 18-26.

In 2014, Matai featured in the first 6 rounds of the season, producing a number of strong performances; setting up a few tries to team-mates and as well as scoring 8 tries (two against the Melbourne Storm in Round 1; two against the Parramatta Eels in Round 3 - his second try of the game (in the 2nd half) was the match-winning try for Manly;[12] two against the West Tigers in Round 5 and another two tries scored against the Cronulla Sharks in Round 6[13]); in the opening 6 rounds. He was awarded man-of-the-match in Manly's 8-0 win over the Sydney Roosters of the Round 4 clash and the 2013 Grand Final re-match, at Allianz Stadium (on 28 March 2014).[14]

On 18 April 2014, Matai continued his try-scoring display by scoring a try (the first try in the first half) and even set-up a try to winger Jorge Taufua (in the 2nd half), of the Round 7 game in Manly's 26-21 win over the North Queensland Cowboys at Bluetongue Stadium.[15] He went on featuring in every Manly game week after week producing a number of strong performances.

On 31 August 2014, Matai played his 200th NRL Career game in Manly's 26-25 home-game win over the Penrith Panthers. Matai featured in Manly's final 2 games of the season (the NRL final series. The 24-40 loss to the Rabbitohs and the 17-18 loss to the Bulldogs).

Representative career[edit]

New Zealand (2006-2010)[edit]

2006 Tri-Nations and the 2007 Centenary Test

On 14 October 2006, Matai made his test debut for New Zealand against Australia at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand of the 2006 Tri-Nations.[16][17]

Matai also featured in the Kiwis' Tri-Nations Grand Final clash with Australia at Sydney Football Stadium. However, the Kiwis end-up losing 12-16.

Matai has represented New Zealand on five occasions between 2006 and 2007.[18]

On 14 October 2007, Matai was sent off by referee Steve Ganson in the trans-Tasman Test at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand for a high/dangerous tackle on Kangaroos Centre Mark Gasnier in the first half of the Trans-Tasman Centenary Test game. Once when Matai left the field, that allowed the Kangaroos to end-up winning the game 58-0 and giving New Zealand their worst/biggest history ever margin-defeat by Australia in a Trans-Tasman Test Rivalry Showdown (one of the Kangaroos try scorers on the day was Sea Eagles team mate and close friend Brett Stewart making his only international appearance).[19][20] He was given a 2 match ban, but given that Matai had ruled himself out of New Zealand's tour of Great Britain and France for off-season shoulder surgery, he served his suspension during Sea Eagles' trial matches in 2008.[20]

2008 Rugby League World Cup

In August 2008 he was named in the New Zealand training squad for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup,[21] and in September 2008 he was named in the final 24-man Kiwi squad.[22]

Mata featured in the Kiwis' first World Cup Tournament clash against Australia at Sydney Football Stadium. He kicked a conversion goal-attempt to convert Sika Manu's try, but he was placed on-report for a high tackle.

Matai missed New Zealand's World Cup match with Papua New Guinea after being handed a one-match ban for a high tackle against Australia.[23]

2009 Four Nations

Following the 2009 NRL Season, Matai was selected in the New Zealand Kiwis' 2009 Rugby League Four Nations Squad. He featured at left Centre, scoring a try in the Kiwis' 40-24 win over Tonga of the Kiwis' Four Nations Warm-up Test Game at Rotorua International Stadium in Rotorua, New Zealand. He even featured in the Kiwis' Four Nation games; the 20-all draw against Australia (the Round 1 clash of the tournament) and the Kiwis' 62-12 win over France (the Round 2 clash of the tournament).

However he injured himself in the round 2 clash against France and that force him to withdrawn from the Kiwis' regular and third round of the tournament clash against England and the Kiwis end-up losing 12-20. That game also eliminate the Kiwis from the 2009 Four Nations tournament, allowing England to face Australia in the Final.

2010 ANZAC Test

Matai was selected to make his 12th test appearance for New Zealand for the annual ANZAC Test in Melbourne. He partnered his cousin Junior Sa'u in the centres for the Kiwis in a 12-8 loss to Australia. Opposing Matai in the centres for the Kangaroos was his Manly centre partner Jamie Lyon. During the Test game, he was placed on-report in the first half for a foul hit play on Australian Kangaroos Fullback Billy Slater.

Following the game, coincidentally both Manly centres played their last tests for their countries on the night, as Lyon announced his retirement from representative football later in the season (in 2011), while Matai has not been selected to play for the NZ Kiwis since that game.


Matai was named in the Samoa training squad for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.[24] He qualified through his Samoan heritage.[25]


  1. ^ "Kiwi Matai to delay surgery". Television New Zealand. AAP. 30 September 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Matai spurred on by his brother's brave example". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Sea Eagle Steve Matai fired for Kiwi class reunion". The Australian. 9 May 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Super Steve's the centre of attention at the Sea Eagles". The Queensland Times. 27 April 2005. Archived from the original on 17 June 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  5. ^ Bay Roskill Rugby League Inc
  6. ^ Matai draws on brothers strength
  7. ^ a b "Matai now a Sea Eagle". Wynnum Manly Seagulls. 9 March 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  8. ^ "Player Profile". 6 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06. [dead link]
  9. ^ "MELBOURNE STORM – 2007 NRL PREMIERS". League Unlimited. 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  10. ^ "Grand final: As it happened". Fox Sports. 5 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  11. ^ Josh Massoud (1 June 2012). "Captains lose faith in Garnsey". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Chris Kennedy (23 March 2014). "Late Matai try breaks Parra's Heart". Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Dean Ritchie (13 April 2014). "Manly Sea Eagles impress on Sunday against a sloppy Cronulla Sharks outfit at Brookvale Oval". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  14. ^ Nick Walshaw (18 March 2014). "Clutching at a spot for the Manly Sea Eagles hard man rival fans just love to hate". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  15. ^ Paul Crawley (18 April 2014). "Gutsy Manly Sea Eagles steal victory from North Queensland Cowboys in controversial thriller". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "2006 Gillette Tri-Nations Series". NZRL. 6 August 2008. Archived from the original on 21 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  17. ^ "NEW ZEALAND TRI-NATIONS PENPIX". Sportinglife. 6 October 2006. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  18. ^ "Steve Matai". Rugby League Project. 6 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  19. ^ "Kiwis fuming at hasty send-off". Fox Sports. 14 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  20. ^ a b Ritchie, Dean (14 October 2007). "Stuart calls Steve Matai 'cheap shot merchant'". Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  21. ^ "Kiwis select Sonny Bill". Sky Sports. 8 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  22. ^ "Kiwis to wait on Webb and Matai". BBC. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  23. ^ "New Zealand without banned Matai". BBC. 27 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  24. ^ "Samoa name World Cup Squad". League Unlimited. 5 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  25. ^ "Steve Matai profile". Richmond Bulldogs. 6 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06. [dead link]

External links[edit]