Determination might be the most overused word in sports reporting, but when it comes to the story of Auckland Vulcans player Suaia Matagi it is perhaps the ideal fit.
In 2008, at the age of 19, a few important things happened in Matagi’s life, which would ultimately lead to him becoming one of New Zealand’s most popular and highly skilled domestic rugby league players.
It was around this time that Matagi, who plays in the National Rugby Leagues (NRL) reserve grade competition the New South Wales Cup, found God and started attending church.
He also stopped smoking and decided to quit as a courier driver to pursue a career as a professional athlete in the toughest rugby league competition in the world.
“My first proper contact (against adults) in rugby league was back in 2008, I took out the Auckland player of the year award and I have believed from the first day I started that I could make the NRL.
“I haven’t stopped believing, I’ve had a lot of people say I couldn’t do it. You can take it as a negative or it can push you on more. I have used it in a positive way.”
After being arguably the best player in Auckland’s premier league competition, the Fox Memorial Premiership, for the past couple of years Matagi was named 2012 New Zealand domestic player of the year.
A few weeks later he was given the chance to trial with the New Zealand Warriors over the summer off-season.
It was an opportunity that he took with both hands, training hard and impressing coach Matt Elliot enough to earn a first grade contract with the Warriors.
“I’m enjoying every moment of it, I know what I have to do, just keep knocking and if that door is not going to open I just have to make sure I knock harder so it falls down.”
When things get tough in the training room or out on the field these days Matagi says he need only look down to his wrist tape for motivation.
“Everyone has their own motivations, for me it’s my verses on my wrist tape.
“Hebrew 13 6 says, ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.’
“When I go on the field that’s what picks me up and I know that God is there for me. No matter how big the opponents are on the field I know God is on my side”