NRL: Mateo revels in the odd years

By Michael Brown

Feleti Mateo of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Feleti Mateo of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

Odd years seem to go well for Feleti Mateo and the Warriors second-rower will hope 2013 ends at least as favourably as the last couple.

In 2009, Mateo was in the Parramatta side who won 11 of their last 12 games to storm into the grand final against Melbourne and in 2011 was part of a Warriors outfit who played on the same stage against Manly after winning nine of their last 12. On both occasions they lost the game that mattered most but getting there was a significant achievement.

The Warriors of 2013 are on an impressive run of seven wins from their last eight and are starting to gain traction on the NRL ladder after a dreadful start to the season. They sit in ninth, but on equal points with the eighth-placed Knights and only two points behind the Bulldogs in fifth, with six games remaining.

Mateo doesn't see any similarities between the seasons, other than the fact they are winning games.

"In `09 we had Jarryd Hayne and everything he touched turned into gold,'' he said. "For us, we have a different guy stepping up every week - Shaun [Johnson] is playing great, Kevin [Locke] is playing great and our forwards are going forward. It's a collective effort and that's what is so pleasing about it.

"The good thing about our little run is we are doing it quietly and not making too much noise. We are doing what we need to do, nothing too flash and just working hard for each other. The way we are going now, we won't lose through lack of effort.''

Mateo has expended a fair bit of energy over the past few seasons. On Saturday he will play his 71st consecutive game for the Warriors - he hasn't missed a match since joining the club at the start of 2011 - and 102nd in the NRL when he tackles Cronulla at Mt Smart Stadium.

The last game Mateo was absent for was round 23, 2009, when he was playing for the Eels as they beat the Warriors 40-4 at Parramatta Stadium.

It's a remarkable record, and his NRL run will overtake the 101 consecutive games Stacey Jones played for the Warriors between 1995 and 1999.

Mateo's Warriors run also surpasses the 70 in a row Micheal Luck played between 2006 and 2008, but it is still short of the 92-straight games Simon Mannering played from 2006-09.

"I have surprised myself a bit playing every week,'' Mateo said. "I am never 100 per cent but credit to the physio and the way the club run the programme and recovery.''

Unsurprisingly, Warriors coach Matt Elliott has stuck with the same 17 who toppled Melbourne 30-22 last weekend. Prop Russell Packer might come into consideration later in the week as he recovers from a hamstring strain and Charlie Gubb (groin) and Sam Lousi (ankle) are also nearing full fitness as Elliott has close to a full squad to choose from.

One of his biggest concerns, however, will be sorting out his right-sided defence which has been a weakness all season and which was badly exposed by the Storm.

Cronulla easily dispatched the Warriors 28-4 when they met in their third round this season and, although the Warriors have improved drastically since then, sit sixth on the table despite their off-field issues and have won three of their last four.

"We go from a really tough opponent in Melbourne to another one in the Sharks,'' Elliott said.

Warriors side to play Cronulla at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, on Saturday (5pm): Kevin Locke, Ngani Laumape, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (c), Elijah Taylor. Interchange: Suaia Matagi, Jacob Lillyman, Todd Lowrie, Dominique Peyroux.

- NZ Herald

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