Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rugby League: Ben Matulino keen to keep chiming for some time at club

Ben Matulino has struggled with the new interchange rules and has had to change his approach to game management. Photo / Getty Images
Ben Matulino has struggled with the new interchange rules and has had to change his approach to game management. Photo / Getty Images

Ben Matulino wants to be a Warrior for life.

In any other year, that would be received with unanimous applause as Matulino is one of the best local products in the history of the club. But this season hasn't gone so well for the 27-year-old.

There was the "gang of six" episode, which saw him dumped to reserve grade and barred from the Kiwis. He has had his form questioned and, when rumours of disharmony swirled a few weeks ago, Matulino was mentioned as part of the dissatisfied player faction.

But Matulino, who will play his 186th game for the Warriors today against the Roosters, says he hasn't considered looking for pastures new.

"I'm happy here," said Matulino, whose contract expires at the end of 2017. "This is the only club I really want to be at.

"It's my ninth season [and] it's gone by pretty fast but I am looking forward to getting to 10 seasons alongside Manu [Vatuvei] and Simon [Mannering]. I'll see how long the body holds up and how I am feeling but I definitely want to stay at the Warriors for a bit longer."

As for disharmony at the club, it's difficult to read. The Warriors didn't look a happy team or a united dressing room last month, especially around the defeats to Penrith and Canberra. But losing runs tend to expose and magnify all kind of cracks, and the players have consistently maintained their belief that things are heading in the right direction.

"I think we are pretty united," said Matulino. "During the bye weekend Hoffy [Ryan Hoffman] got us together for a meeting and that was a good call from him.

"He didn't wait for things to get really bad and then call a meeting. I think he called it before something was about to happen. It was a truth session and we got a lot out of it."

Matulino hasn't had an awful season on the field - far from it - but he also hasn't reached the high standards of last year.

He has been inconsistent and admits confidence dipped at times, as he felt the impact of the reduced interchanges from 10 to eight.

"I'm not playing as well as I think I should be," he admitted. "Getting used to playing longer stints on the field has been challenging for me.

"There have been a couple of games where we have been on defence the whole time and then it comes to my carry and there is no way I can get a carry or be effective. I was thinking, 'If I do this carry, will I be stuffed for the D set?' That's where I need to learn how to use my energy a lot better, and game management."

Matulino's struggles have mirrored those of the team. It's hard in the trenches when you can't complete sets, are turning over possession and offering the opposition chances.

But there have been signs of hope over the past two weeks, and that needs to continue today against the Roosters.

Like many of his team-mates, Matulino has a good record against the Bondi club (eight wins from 14 games) and he was outstanding in the 32-28 round-five win, with 15 runs for 133m during a lung-busting 70 minutes on the field.

- Herald on Sunday

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