Suaia Matagi

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Suaia Matagi

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NRL player Suaia Matagi on long, hard road from jail cell
A drunken assault - then a stint in jail followed by years of remorse and shame.
Daniel Lane12 January 2014 — 3:00am

Suaia Matagi was 15, a gang member, drunk and on a mission to avenge a friend's mother who had been bashed and ''bottled'' by a rival group when he ambushed some boys his age in West Auckland.

After a barrage of punches Matagi stood triumphantly over two bodies slumped on the footpath. He should have felt satisfaction. After all, he had achieved his aim to vent his fury, but the voice in his head warned the act would haunt him.

In 2006, the assaults led to Matagi being sentenced to three years in jail. Had it not been for one of the victims, who was hospitalised, asking the judge to show leniency because he had forgiven the now New Zealand Warriors prop, Matagi could have languished in Manawatu Prison, a nine-hour journey - and a living hell - away from his family home.

''I was looking at eight years,'' he said. ''I didn't appreciate the situation, thought I'd get a slap on the hand because I was a teenager at the time. It all happened when I was 15. But I was 17 and old enough to get a sentence.

''I met the boys face-to-face before I went in and that motivated me to change. I'm trying to organise it so one day I'll see them to let them know I'm a changed person. I don't know who that guy was any more because I left him in prison.''

Matagi tells the tale he describes as a source of personal shame in the hope he will influence young men to realise there are consequences to their actions. The problem of violence on Sydney's streets makes his message all the more poignant.

When he recently addressed NRL rookies the frankness with which he spoke about life on the inside shocked them and his path to redemption inspired them.

''My mates were like family,'' he said of being in a gang. ''Gangs are normal in New Zealand, a gang can start off with your street crew, the guys you hang out with. My old street was 'Aldern' and that's how it all started. You end up doing stuff you regret, don't think of the consequences that follow.

''When I heard a mate's mother was bottled it sent me over the edge. I wanted to hurt somebody that night. I was out on my regular routine, getting drunk with the boys and wanted to find who did that to my mate's mum. The opportunity came when I saw a group walking up the street. Next thing, I was standing over two badly beaten boys and later that week I heard one was in hospital. I knew this would come back to haunt me and it did when I was sentenced.''

It did not take long for Matagi to realise he was locked in a nightmare. Fights raged around him on the first day of his incarceration but nothing hit as hard as the degradation of being subjected to what he described as the mark of a criminal.

''I was in a prison cell with my hands cuffed behind my back,'' he said. ''That memory is the permanent mark of a criminal, it's not only the shirt that distinguishes you as a prisoner, it's moments.

''I stayed out of trouble even though it's impossible in a place surrounded by dangerous possibilities. You have gangs, drugs … it's all there, but I was focused on getting out early.''

Matagi said the realisation his family loved him despite what he had put them through, and, finding religion, saved him.

''I learned in the hard times your friends aren't there," he said. "When it fell apart only my family was there and they were suffering because of my actions. My family, my partner, Fai, the shame and loneliness they had to carry with them … my heart broke whenever I watched them go through the prison gates to see me.

''I would've deserved it if Fai left me, would've been another consequence of my actions. I live knowing my family suffered and that's not to mention my daughter … I missed her first birthday … what kind of father does that?

''I'd hit rock bottom. Didn't know what to do; the nothingness … no purpose. In my desperation I called out to God. In my desperation I cried out for him to help get me out early. If he did, I promised I'd turn my life around for good. I heard a voice say he'd turn me from a nobody into a somebody. I didn't know what that meant but my hope and my faith grew in prison. The path was often blocked by trouble but I found God guided my steps and it's been like that ever since I called out for his help. I am grateful for God's grace.''

Matagi spent his time inside doing courses to better himself, sidestepping trouble and wondering what path he would tread.

The answer to that came when he tapped into his childhood dream to represent the land of his forefathers, Samoa, when he participated in a prison sport called crash, a brutal pursuit in which prisoners congregate on the concrete courtyard and charge full steam into a defensive line.

It was how the prisoners earned their respect and Matagi noted there was no choice but to play because to stand on the sideline was seen as a snub and in prison snubs can lead to dangerous grudges. The idea to play in the NRL came to Matagi - who had never played any organised sport before - as he threw himself into the seething mass of inmates and found he could pick himself up despite the blows.

"Really hit me, I was going to do everything possible to make the NRL,'' he said. ''My attitude was I'd give my all. I had a dream at six to play in the NRL and represent Samoa … but I'd lost it when I turned 12 and headed the wrong way. I thank God for restoring that dream. He gave me hunger, he gave me hope."

His first step was to give up smoking, a self-inflicted torture for a long-term chain smoker.

"That was the first sacrifice. Gave up smoking because I had to face a reality - if I wanted to play in the NRL I had to quit. I was also scared. I saw the commercials of the effects smoking can have. So, I learnt sacrifice. It's not easy but I did it by myself. My lungs have restored themselves.

''It should send out the message it's never too late to quit and that there's no limit."

On the trip back to Auckland after Matagi had served a year of a three-year term, his thoughts flickered between the dream to play first grade and appreciating the torment his family endured. It was hard to feel at peace as the kilometres, and hours, ticked by on the prison bus.

"I was nine hours away from my family, from where my family came to visit me," he said. "I didn't realise how far it was until I made the trip home. It was hard to accept how often they'd made the trip.

"When I got home I trained when people weren't watching, road runs early in the morning. I knew nothing about training. I just moved. Up early, running up hills, developing stamina. I was rejected from almost every job I applied for because of my record. I kept knocking on doors until I found a job on a rubbish route. I picked up rubbish. I was keen to get a job, didn't want to be one of those guys who sat at home. A job, I figured that was a stepping stone."

He fronted up for the Te Atatu Roosters, then the Mt Albert Lions. He dented plenty of defensive lines and bruised many egos on his rapid rise through the ranks. He was selected for Auckland Vulcans in 2009 and the New Zealand Residents from 2009 to 2012. However, his criminal record stalled any chance of playing for the Warriors because Australia would not grant him a visa. It meant he could only play home games for the Vulcans. It was a setback and he responded by fighting to prove he was worthy.

"It was a long process to get a visa, I had to show I was a changed man," he said. "A lot of people helped, Restless World Visa [agency], a guy named Marc Garside, the Australian consulate in Auckland and Australian Immigration helped and I'm grateful. I want my actions to prove they made the right decision."

Matagi's story coincided with the two-year sentence imposed upon Newcastle forward Russell Packer last week as a result of the assault he committed during a night out. He says it is not for him to comment on Packer's actions but vowed to do whatever he could to support him.

"I'm feeling for his family and I am here for him," Matagi said.

His manager, Tyran Smith, said Matagi was as much a positive member in his Sports Player Management stable as Parramatta recruit and renowned NRL cleanskin William Hopoate, who has completed a two-year Mormon mission.

"His dedication is extreme," Smith said. "He is strong willed, he is loyal and he is brave enough to allow for others to learn from his mistakes. Players like Suaia and William are leaders and you build a club around them."

When Matagi is set to charge into defenders just as he did in the games of ''crash'' a different lifetime ago, he looks to the quotation scrawled across his wrist tape: "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me - Hebrew 13:6.''

"I'm getting better," the 25-year-old father of two said. "Confidence is getting up. I realised early on everyone is human, everyone on the field has two legs. I went to a World Cup for Samoa and that boosted me because I tested myself against the world's best. Putting my body on the line for the team, they're like a family to me, keeps me going.

"My attitude when I got out of prison was I'd give my all, do my best and make my family proud. I wanted to show I just didn't have a terrible past and would stay where I was. I had a past, but I picked myself up. My best is to come. Enough is behind me."

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/nrl-player-suaia-matagi-on-long-hard-road-from-jail-cell-20140111-30nkk.html
 
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THU 19 SEPTEMBER 2013

Samoa name strong train-on squad

Samoa have named an initial train-on squad for Rugby League World Cup 2013 containing an impressive mix of NRL stars.

Head coach Matt Parish has been tasked with leading the islanders beyond the group stage this autumn, and he will add to his squad in the coming weeks as the club seasons in Super League and the NRL draw to a close.

Samoa initial train-on squad:

Canterbury Bulldogs: Tim Lafai, Martin Taupau

Wests Tigers: Ava Seumanafagai, Tim Simona, Masada Iosefa, Sauaso Sue, David Nofoaluma, Eddy Pettybourne

St George Illawarra Dragons: Daniel Vidot, Leeson Ah Mau

New Zealand Warriors: Pita Godinet, Carlos Tuimavave, Suaia Matagi, Mason Lino

Canberra Raiders: Anthony Milford, Sami Sauiluma

North Queensland Cowboys: Antonio Winterstein, Kalifa Faifailoa, Wayne Ulugia

Brisbane Broncos: Dunamis Lui, Lama Tasi

Gold Coast Titans: Mark Ioane

Parramatta Eels: Ben Roberts, Reni Maitua, Ken Sio

Penrith Panthers: Mose Masoe

Samoa kick off their RLWC2013 campaign against New Zealand in Warrington on Sunday October 27.

They then travel to Hull for a clash against Papua New Guinea on Monday November 4 before taking on France in Perpignan in their final group match on Monday November 11.

http://www.rlwc2013.com/rugby-league-world-news/article/1111/samoa-name-strong-train-on-squad
 
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League: Matagi chooses Kiwis over Samoa
10 Oct, 2014 12:00pm
2 minutes to read

Suaia Matagi. Photo / Richard Robinson
In demand prop Suaia Matagi has officially declared his switch of allegiance from Samoa to the Kiwis by signing off on paperwork with the New Zealand Rugby League today.

Earlier this week Matagi was named by both the Kiwis and Toa Samoa for the upcoming Four Nations tournament with his switch to New Zealand dependent on an eligibility transfer from Samoa.

Matagi signed papers of allegiance at NZRL headquarters in Auckland today which need to be ratified by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) before the Kiwis can officially claim the 26-year-old Warriors forward as their own.

NZRL high performance general manager Tony Iro said it was just a matter of Matagi and the NZRL submitting the required documents before his place in the 24-man squad could be confirmed.


"The paperwork needs to be sorted out and we're confident that it will be," Iro said.

Matagi has played three tests for Samoa, including their Four Nations qualifier against Fiji at Penrith back in May.

Samoa are looking to contest the Kiwis' right to Matagi, and yesterday approached the RLIF seeking clarification over international eligibility rules, with a response expected sometime today.

Samoan coach Matt Parish believes Matagi is tied to their team until the end of the next World Cup in 2017 or until the expiry of a two-year "Election Period".

The Kiwis disagree, believing Matagi can switch his allegiance with players allowed to make one change during an Election Period, as defined in the RLIF rules [ruling 3.3 and 3.5].

Matagi gets his chance with the Kiwis after the late withdrawal of Sydney Roosters front-rower Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11340467
 
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NRL: Warriors expected to release Suaia Matagi
13 May, 2015 4:39pm
2 minutes to read

Warriors Suaia Matagi in action in 2013. Photo / Richard Robinson.

By: David Skipwith
Sports writer
david.skipwith@nzherald.co.nz@dskipwithNZH


The Warriors are expected to release front-rower Suaia Matagi in the coming days to join a Sydney NRL team.

Matagi is contracted through to the end of the season but after playing in each of the Warriors' 24 games last season has made only one brief NRL appearance back in round one this year.

With Kiwis test prop Ben Matulino and Queensland Origin rep Jacob Lillyman the preferred starting pair and emerging duo Sam Lisone and Albert Vete commanding regular bench spots, Matagi has had limited opportunities to impress.

It's understood several Super League clubs were keen on signing the powerful ball-runner but he wants to remain in the NRL.

The 27-year-old would leave the Warriors as a fan favourite after overcoming a stint in Manawatu prison to successfully rebuild his life.

After starting out on the Auckland club circuit with the Te Atatu Roosters and Mount Albert Lions his good form was recognised with a spot in the Auckland representative team in 2009.

He went on to be join the Auckland Vulcans the following season and was a leading performer despite being able to play only domestically until the end of the 2012 season due to travel restrictions.

Matagi continued his progress with the Warriors before making his NRL debut against the Bulldogs in Wellington in round nine of the 2013 season.

He made 11 appearances that year before representing Toa Samoa at the 2013 World Cup and was chosen to represent the Kiwis at the 2014 Four Nations.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11448115
 
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Warriors prop Suaia Matagi inks deal with the Sydney Roosters after seeking early release
SARAH HARVEY15:12, May 15 2015

GETTY IMAGES
Cult hero prop Suaia Matagi has been released by the Warriors to take up a contract with the Sydney Roosters.

Warriors prop Suaia Matagi has signed with the Roosters and will leave the Auckland-based club almost immediately, bound for Sydney.

Matagi, 27, who served time in jail for a serious assault before finding redemption with the Warriors, has struggled for game time at the club this season with young forwards Albert Vete and Sam Lisone pushing him out of the first grade team.

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said it was "tough call" to let Matagi go midway through the season but he understood his desire to get more game time.

"Everyone in our squad and at the club as a whole is full of admiration for him with the way he has turned his life around. We have supported him on his journey to redemption and watched him make the most of every opportunity he has been given.

"Naturally Suaia wants to be playing in the NRL but with the competition we have for spots he's not getting those opportunities this season.

"We'd be happy to see Suaia getting the chance to play in the NRL and wouldn't want to stand in his way. It's not easy seeing him go in these circumstances but we wish him and his family all the best and congratulate him on what he has achieved so far."

Matagi, who has played for both the Kiwis and Toa Samoa, made his NRL debut in 2013. He played the last of his 36 NRL games for the Warriors in this season's opening round against Newcastle.

He said he leaves the Warriors with mixed emotions.

"It's difficult leaving the club that has done so much for me," he said.

"There are so many people to thank at the Warriors. If it wasn't for the coaching staff having faith in me and the club giving me the opportunities I've had I wouldn't be where I am today. I also want to thank the members and the fans for all their support.

"I've loved every minute here but now my journey takes me to a new experience."

Matagi's Roosters play the Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium on June 13 and again at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on July 19.

Apart from playing 36 NRL games for the Warriors, the international prop appeared eight times for the club's New South Wales Cup side this year after previously playing extensively in the same competition for the Auckland Vulcans.

During his time with the Warriors he also made his test debut for the Kiwis during the 2014 Four Nations and represented Toa Samoa at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/league/68590783/warriors-prop-suaia-matagi-inks-deal-with-the-sydney-roosters-after-seeking-early-release
 
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Former Warriors prop Suaia Matagi signs with Penrith Panthers
21:40, Nov 04 2015

HANNAH JOHNSTON/GETTY IMAGES
Former Warriors prop Suaia Matagi is looking to revive his career at the Panthers.

Former Warriors forward Suaia Matagi has joined the Penrith Panthers for next season.

The 27-year-old prop has signed a one-year deal at the western Sydney outfit, with an option for a second year, and Panthers chief Phil Gould expects him to have a big impact both on and off the field.

"We are very pleased to sign Suaia to our club and he will provide tremendous impact and leadership to our young forwards," Gould said in a statement on the club's website.

"Off the field Sui has proven himself to be an inspiration with his life story and his preparedness to share his experiences with the younger generation.

"As well as playing football, Suaia is keen to involve himself in a number of the club's community projects."

Matagi served time in jail for a serious assault before finding redemption at the Warriors, playing a total of 36 games from 2013.

He joined the Sydney Roosters in a mid-season transfer last season after the rise of props Albert Vete and Sam Lisone reduced his game time.

He is now looking to revive his career at Penrith, who only recently appointed a new coach in Anthony Griffin following the sacking of former Warriors boss Ivan Cleary.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/league/73702612/former-warriors-prop-suaia-matagi-signs-with-penrith-panthers
 
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Parramatta Eels sign Suaia Matagi on a two-year deal
PARRAMATTA have moved quickly to cover the loss of the retired Danny Wicks by announcing the signing of another former bad boy.

AAPNOVEMBER 10, 20164:45PM

Suaia Matagi is off to the Eels. Picture: Gregg Porteous Source:News Corp Australia

PARRAMATTA have moved quickly to cover the loss of the retired Danny Wicks by announcing the signing of another former bad boy in Suaia Matagi.

The Eels confirmed the 28-year-old had been given a two-year deal, filling the sizeable hole vacated by the surprise retirement of Wicks earlier this week.

Matagi’s arrival comes almost 10 years after being sentenced to three years’ jail for a flurry of assault charges during his wild days as a teenager in New Zealand.

However, a reformed Matagi returned to the game in 2008, eventually making his NRL debut with the Warriors five years later and had since had stints at the Sydney Roosters and Penrith.


Suaia Matagi during his time at the Panthers.Source:Getty Images

Wicks trudged a similar path back to the NRL after being sentenced to 18 months’ jail for possession and supply of prohibited drugs.

He played 35 games across two seasons at the Eels before opting to move back to Yamba.

Eels coach Brad Arthur was excited to add a player of Matagi’s calibre to a roster that would be strengthened by his size and experience. He played one Test in 2014 for the Kiwis.

“Suaia’s journey to the NRL is a testament of hard work and dedication and I am delighted that we have been able to secure him for the next two years,” Arthur said on Thursday.

“He played 23 games last year and showed the ability to mix it with the very best in the competition so I am sure our members and fans are pleased that he will be part of the team in 2017.

“Already in pre-season, Suaia has given us a glimpse of the contribution he can make to the team as we prepare for next year.”

The announcement comes as the club continues to be linked with former Canterbury second-rower and another ex-Penrith player, Frank Pritchard.

https://www.news.com.au/sport/nrl/eels/parramatta-eels-sign-suaia-matagi-on-a-twoyear-deal/news-story/661fc0488535419c806e8e304c490ba2
 
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DONE DEAL
Huddersfield Giants sign prop Suaia Matagi from Parramatta Eels for 2019 Super League season

The 30-year-old represented Samoa at last year's World Cup

By talkSPORT
1st July 2018, 12:52 pm

Huddersfield have announced the signing of prop Suaia Matagi from NRL club Parramatta Eels for the 2019 Super League season.

The 30-year-old, who started his career at New Zealand Warriors before spells with Sydney Roosters and Penrith Panthers, represented Samoa at last year’s World Cup.



Matagi becomes Simon Woolford’s first recruit since he took over as Giants head coach.

“I was looking for some real grunt and aggression in the front row and Suaia will bring that and a whole heap more,” said Woolford.

“The fans will love his action-packed style and he is a man that won’t take a backward step and he relishes the tough stuff up front.”

Huddersfield are in the bottom four after Friday’s defeat at Hull KR but Matagi is already planning for next year.

“I am extremely excited to take my football to the next level under the leadership of coach Simon Woolford and I’m also looking forward to the challenge of playing in the English Super League,” he said.

“Joining a proud club like the Huddersfield Giants is a privilege and I will represent our fans to the best of my ability.”

https://talksport.com/sport/rugby-league/393246/huddersfield-giants-suaia-matagi-super-league/
 
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OK. Started this thread to post this story but thought I may as well update the key moments of his career thus far...


NRL

A DREAM BORN IN PRISON
October 26, 2018

It was my first full pre-season with the Warriors.

I had been working with Lilian Su’a and MYSTORY61 Productions on a stage show about the lives of five people, including my own. We had booked the Mangere Arts Centre for a few shows that were open to the public. The problem was, those dates clashed with the Warriors’ pre-season training camp.

Matt Elliott was our coach at the time. I was nervous approaching him. I was on a trial contract and close to breaking into first grade – a dream of mine ever since my time in prison – and I didn’t want him thinking, ‘How about this rookie wanting time off?!’

I told him about my situation. He was cool. He said he was happy for me to join the stage production on those dates – but there was a catch.

I had to perform it in front of the entire Warriors playing and coaching staff.

Opening up those old scars of drugs, alcohol and gang violence was confronting enough in front of strangers. But in front of my work mates? Man. It was like a whole other level of vulnerability.

The idea of co-writing and acting in From Prison To The Palace was to help young people who might have found themselves in a similar situation to what I experienced as a teenager. The thought that I’d be performing it in front of NRL players had never, ever entered my mind.

Still, I held up my end of the bargain. All the Warriors came in one night and packed the place out. I reckon it was about the most nervous I’d been in my life and I tried to approach the whole thing as if it were a game of footy.

Go all-out, be me, no holding back.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult. There’s one scene in particular that made me very emotional.

It’s of the time I was behind bars for my daughter Malili’s first birthday. That was a big turning point in my life – the moment I knew I had reached a dead-end, that all my life-choices to that point had been selfish, that I needed to find another path.

I remember being in my cell, the darkest time of my life, and crying out a prayer. I wasn’t really someone who went to church, but after stints at Mount Eden and Manawatu, I didn’t know who else to turn to. I said to God that if I got out early, I would grasp my second chance at life. That prayer changed everything.

I was told not to bother applying for parole by the CEO of the prison. I did anyway. I was depressed and desperate and I had nothing to lose. Even when I walked into the parole hearing, he reminded me that I would almost certainly have to serve at least two-thirds of my sentence, which was three years, for a violent offence. He said, ‘Mate, you’ve got a 40 percent chance.’

When I received my parole, I knew it was a miracle. It was the chance I’d cried out for. It was time for me to take responsibility as a father and a husband. My family had been suffering the consequences of my actions for too long. Fai, my wife, and Malili had no one to protect them.

That was all on me.

There’s definitely a sense of shame when I step back into the ‘old me’ and relive the most painful moments of my life on stage. But the thought of just one person finding hope, that little spark, to pick themselves up after hearing it makes it worthwhile.

I didn’t know how the Warriors boys would respond afterwards. There’s obviously a lot of discipline required to be a professional player in the NRL and I’d just acted out in front of them how reckless much of my life had been. But they were great about it. They said they were proud of me.

‘That took a lot of guts,’ one of the boys said. It’s always stuck with me.



BIG DECISIONS

I moved to Australia to join the Roosters – and then the Panthers and the Eels – a few years ago and I’ve continued to share my story and work with people in the juvenile justice system.

I can’t put into words how happy it makes me to receive messages from people who saw the stage production, or just heard about me along the way, and took something positive out of it.

One of those people was a young guy over here in Australia. I won’t mention his name, because that wouldn’t be right, but he had heard me give a talk at a juvenile detention centre and had followed my journey since then.

I was behind bars for my daughter Malili’s first birthday. That was a big turning point in my life – the moment I knew I had reached a dead-end, that all my life-choices to that point had been selfish.

Like me, he’d reached a point where he had to make some big decisions in his life. He’d got himself into a bad scene and had been locked up after a fight. You hear stories like his a lot. It’s sad. A lot of these young people come from backgrounds where they have no good role models. When you actually sit down and spend time with them, you find out they’re actually good kids who have made bad decisions and looked up to the wrong people.

If you can change their direction, you can change their lives.

When this guy was released, he reached out to me. It was cool to spend time with him. I tried to encourage him by telling him he was on the right path. It wasn’t going to be easy, I said, but it would definitely be worth it in the end.

We stayed in touch. I tried to answer any questions he had and offered him a hand when he needed it. The last time we communicated he told me he’d got a job. He had big dreams now, he said, and he was following them.

Hearing that was one of the highlights of my life.



We’ve paused From Prison To The Palace for the moment after two years, but I’ve talked to Phil Gould and the NRL about one day bringing it back and using the game’s big platform to push what I believe are important messages.

My story, as I mentioned, was about getting myself out of a cycle of addiction and gangs. One of the other guys in the show spoke about suicide. One girl spoke about depression, another shared her story about being abused as a child. There are no actors. It’s just us talking about our real life experiences and issues that many people deal with every day.

The message is pretty simple: No matter how messed up your life is, there’s hope.

I’ve signed with Huddersfield now and I’m looking forward to continuing my work with young people in the UK. It’s like a dream, really.

When I dropped out of school at 14, when I was an alcoholic at 16, when I was sent to an adult prison at 17, could I have ever imagined that I would one day be using those experiences to help people in three different countries?

No way. It’s a blessing.

LEARNING ON THE RUN

I played my 100th NRL game this year and it’s something I’m really proud of.

I didn’t really grow up playing footy all that much. The ambition to play professional rugby league really started when I was in prison. We used to play a game called Crash, which was pretty much just taking hit-ups on concrete, and I loved it. Some of the boys nicknamed me Roy Asotasi because of the way I played. I didn’t know who he was.

I set myself the goal of playing in the NRL once I got out. It wasn’t easy. Unlike all the kids who grew up playing the game, I didn’t really understand what my job was.

I was ashamed to ask people the basic questions about the game because of my age. Like, it took me three or four years to understand what a pivot was. And the spine! When people would talk about it, I would just nod along and pretended I knew what it meant and hoped no one would ask me any questions.

I had to become a sponge and pick up as much as I could. That continued right through into the NRL. When I debuted with the Warriors, there were parts of the game plan I didn’t understand. It completely different at the NRL to grassroots. It’s very technical at the top. I had to do a lot of homework.


I’m grateful to rugby league for the chance it gave me to turn my life around. It has given me a platform to meet people and share my message. It’s a dream just playing the game – who wouldn’t want a job like that? – but the opportunities really just start there.

I’m grateful to Tyran Smith, who is more a life coach than a manager. He called me when I was working fulltime as a delivery driver for Taylors Laundry, moving linen around Auckland, and playing club footy on the weekend. I couldn’t travel at the time because of my criminal record and most managers didn’t want a bar of me. But Tyran said, ‘You need a manager to help you out now, not when you get your visa.’ I’ve been with him ever since. He’s a man of integrity. I’ve learned so much from him.

More than anything, though, I am grateful to my family. Fai stuck by me through all the bad times and now we have four kids together – Malili and the three boys Christopher, Daniel and Azariah.

When we first left New Zealand for Australia, it was pretty scary. Everything was uncharted for us. We didn’t know what the future would hold. We look back now and think of it as one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. It’s been an awesome period in our lives.

The message is pretty simple: No matter how messed up your life is, there’s hope.

And now we’re about to do it all over again in the UK. There’s definitely a mixture of nerves and excitement, but at least this time we know we’ve done a version of this before. We sat down as a family and discussed everything about what the move would mean before I signed the contract with Huddersfield. There will obviously be challenges – Malili will be starting high school in the UK and we’ll all be leaving friends behind – but we all agreed that we were up for the adventure.

I’ve just got back from eight weeks in the UK getting us all set up. I’ve found us a nice four-bedroom home in Lindley, which is only a couple of minutes from Huddersfield, with plenty of space. They tell me when it snows hard you can’t leave the house, so I made sure we found somewhere where the kids could run around inside a bit.

The club have been really helpful. They’ve made the transition as easy as it could be.

I’m very thankful for the chance they’ve given me and I can’t wait to begin my next chapter in the Super League.

https://www.playersvoice.com.au/suaia-matagi-dream-forged-prison/?fbclid=IwAR0ZPXRQs5pV_oe0bmfnwwMosAHNzfPN15ex0ukQEvbXpUbblAaQzrLVKTA#BpEoDI3UYJhDDFX0.97
 
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Hardyman's Yugo

Hardyman's Yugo

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Send him to Huddersfield! It’ll be cold up there in pre season.

They could be a surprise package this season if they continue the form they showed in the second half of last season
 
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Baxendale

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Send him to Huddersfield! It’ll be cold up there in pre season.

They could be a surprise package this season if they continue the form they showed in the second half of last season
Outside chance of top 4 I reckon. Woolford has done a good job there so far
 
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Hardyman's Yugo

Hardyman's Yugo

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Hope the lad has turned his life around now. The big battle all Aussie and NZ players face is settling in to a new place to live, the footie side of things he should cope with fine.

Anyone who claims they can’t go out of the house in winter is a proper fanny mind.
 
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