For Ben Matulino, there is a simple recipe in 2014 - a focus on quality as well as quantity.

Matulino has been the most durable prop at the Warriors for the past three seasons. Playing in the most demanding position, he has kept fronting up, week after week.

He appeared in every match last season and has missed only two NRL games since the end of the 2010 season.

But that hasn't been enough. Too many times since, he's been present but not punishing; solid but not starring.


Since the highs of 2011 and that memorable run to the grand final, on the back of the fabulous four in the engine room, Matulino has rarely recaptured the form that labelled him one of league's best props.

"From my point of view, my form was rubbish pretty much last season," Matulino told the Herald on Sunday. "I needed to step up from the start of the year and I didn't.

"I'd played more than 100 games but I wasn't stringing together good performances."

Matulino wasn't Robinson Crusoe in that respect and he put together some good performances in the second half of the season, although without ever reaching the vintage of 2011.

"My form picked up, like everyone else's when we went on that streak," says Matulino. "But this year, it is all about being more consistent."

At his best, Matulino is a fearsome proposition, which is why he made such a strong start to his career. After making his debut in late 2008, he was the first Holden Cup graduate to hit 100 NRL games.

Still only 25, this season will be his seventh in the top grade. The banning of the shoulder charge at the start of 2013 deprived him of one of his best weapons but he is still rated one of the biggest hitters at the club, and when on song is a handful for any defensive line with the ball in hand.

"He is tall [1.93m] for a prop but doesn't get pushed back," explains former Warriors captain Awen Guttenbeil. "He's got great body position going into tackles and his late footwork helps to get slightly between tacklers. [On defence], he is the man others tend to run away from because he can hurt you."


A late start to pre-season (he returned to club duties, along with the rest of the Kiwi contingent, in the second week of January) has him refreshed after the long World Cup campaign and a new approach in the gym is paying dividends.

"I'm doing more functional training in the gym now - a bit like crossfit," says Matulino.

"Ruben [Wiki] has a special programme for me and Albert [Vete] and it's going well."

For Matulino, half the battle might be belief. While others - particularly commentator Phil Gould - have been espousing his virtues and potential for years, Matulino is much more circumspect and modest.

"Ben has to get his head around being international class and one of the best props in the world," said Warriors coach Matt Elliott. "Maybe he is too humble. That quality doesn't need to change but he should recognise privately - and I don't think I am peeing in his pocket - that he could be one of the world's best props."

Says Matulino: "I have to play hard and not worry about my form.


"When I was playing well, I didn't really care, to be honest. I just stuck to the structure and that automatically put me in good form. Hopefully it will take care of itself."

It's a good year for a personal revival. The forward stocks at the Warriors look strong in 2014, with the signing of Jayson Bukuya and the return of Lousi brothers Sione and Sam. Sione Lousi, Charlie Gubb and Suaia Matagi will compete with the established props, leaving little room for flat performances.

"This season, it's all about getting some wins going and getting on a roll," says Matulino.

"I'm sick of losing after the last two years."