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REAL NRL: Lakes United Seagulls swoop on Mata’utia

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The Lakes United Seagulls have struck a major blow in the recruitment market by signing former NRL star Peter Mata’utia for 2024.

His prized signature follows a recent spree from Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) clubs to bolster their depth next season, with Nathan Ross (Newcastle Knights) and Will Smith (Wests Tigers) linking with the Western Suburbs Rosellas, Blake Austin (Canberra Raiders) heading to The Entrance Tigers and Blake Ferguson (Parramatta Eels) adding class to the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs.

Mata’utia – the brother of Chanel, Pat and Sione – boasts more than 200 first class games in the NRL and English Super League.

He spent two stints at the Knights (2011-13, 2016-17) for a total of 41 matches, playing another 35 for the St George Illawarra Dragons from 2014-16.

Recently, the 33-year-old has plied his trade overseas, representing the Castleford Tigers (61) and Warrington Wolves (54) between 2019 and 2023.

Lakes United football manager Tony Delany said obtaining Mata’utia’s services was a “huge coup” for the organisation.

“He’ll bring so much to the Seagulls,” he explained.

“And, we’ve obviously signed Peter due to the experience he’s had within the game.

“During our [recruitment] process, we’re looking to target guys who are known winners… and he ticks that box.

“Not only with what he does on the field but also with his mindset and professional preparational off the paddock.

“Knowing the player and performer Peter is, we’re certainly hoping that filters down through our pathway system as well.”

Lakes United finished eighth in 2023, registering six victories.

However, the Seagulls were competitive in most encounters.

The addition of Mata’utia should push the promising squad towards semi-final contention.

“Peter will make a big difference,” Delany said.

“We’ve got a lot of young up-and-comers progressing through the grades, like Caleb Faulkner and Ryan Potts etc

“But, Peter just brings that element we’ve been sort of lacking late in a game.

“Quite often, for about 65 minutes, we’ve been the better team.

“So, Peter’s the icing on top, helping not only for what he brings but also his mentorship, something the young guys can learn in those [tight] situations.

“That was another key reason for his signing.”

Delany said Mata’utia would play a part in nurturing Lakes United’s next talent pool, too, alongside respected coach Ian “Bubba” Bourke.

“That’s something Peter highlighted during his negotiation,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“He just didn’t want to come and play.

“He’s keen to work within our career pathways development framework… and it’s something he’s really passionate about.

“I have a feeling he might be eyeing off a coaching role in rugby league after he hangs up the boots.

“So, by coming to the Seagulls, it gives Peter an opportunity to do that under an experienced mentor like Bubba.

“Ian’s probably one of the greatest experts in pathways in the NSW region.

“And, Peter will gain so much working alongside him.”

Group 21 chairman Peter Holland with Player of the Year Tayhler Paora, who has signed with the Lakes United Seagulls for 2024.

Mata’utia isn’t the only new face arriving at the Seagulls.

Macquarie Scorpions duo Matt Cooper and Jeremy Gibson, as well as the Denman Devils’ Tayhler Paora, will don the blue, white and gold jumper.

“Coops has come home after a stint with Macquarie,” Delany said.

“So, it’s great to have him back.

“We know he’ll have a major presence to whatever we’re doing in the backline.

“As for Jeremy, he’s a grand final player from a couple of years ago with the Scorpions.

“He’ll provide great game management, especially with his kicking game.

“Then there’s Tayhler Paora, who enjoyed a very successful season in Group 21.

“He picked up Best and Fairest, as well as Players’ Player, at the Devils.

“On top of that, he took out Group 21 Player of the Year.

“He’ll probably join Nick Glohe and Dane Brouwer on rotation in the front-row.

“Tayhler hails from the Warriors’ 20s’ system and wants to test himself at this level.

“And, from what we’ve seen from him pre-season so far, he’ll more than happily pass it.

“At the moment, we’re just training on Saturdays.

“With work and other family commitments etc, we’ve attracted about 40 or so to the sessions, mainly the full-time guys and a few youngsters from the under-19s.

“But, all the contracted players will return in about the second week of January, with Newcastle Rugby League kicking off in April.

“That’ll give us plenty of time to work on what we need.

“However, at this stage, we’re primarily in the weight room and working hard on our fitness.”

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