St Helens coach highlights ‘special’ unsung hero after Wigan Warriors win

Ben Olawumi
Sione Mata'utia, Paul Wellens

St Helens utility Sione Mata'utia (circle) & head coach Paul Wellens (main image)

St Helens boss Paul Wellens believes that Sione Mata’utia is a ‘special’ unsung hero in their side, singling him out for some praise after their Good Friday victory over rivals Wigan Warriors.

Saints handed Mata’utia a new one-year contract ahead of this season, putting the option of a further 12-month extension in the deal on the back of a campaign which saw the 27-year-old clock up 24 appearances, that the most in a single season since his arrival in 2021.

So far this year, taking his appearance tally for the club up to 69, the ex-Australia & Samoa international has featured in all seven games across league and cup, coming off the bench as an interchange in the win over Wigan and adding some impetus to the Red V’s forward pack with a 34-minute stint either side of half-time.

Late tries from Tommy Makinson & Konrad Hurrell sealed a 12-4 win for Saints, who became the first team to defeat their bitter rivals since last July, and that pair – amongst others – earned praise aplenty externally.

But post-match, head coach Wellens paid tribute to Mata’utia, a man he believes goes under the radar and someone whose utility value, he says, can’t be underestimated.

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St Helens coach Paul Wellens highlights ‘special’ unsung hero Sione Mata’utia after Good Friday win against Wigan Warriors

Mata’utia – who has over 100 NRL appearances to his name, all coming with Newcastle Knights – has already displayed that utility trait numerous times this year, as Wellens explained in his press conference.

The Red V‘s chief said: “One player that stands out for me is Sione Mata’utia.

“You tell me if there’s any other players that can start in the middle one week and be one of the best players on the field, who can start in the centre the next week and be one of the best players on the field or start in the second row and do exactly the same.

“He’s pretty unique in that respect, and the biggest compliment I can pay him is that I’m not having to beg him or twist his arm in terms of taking up different positions. He’s happy to put the team first, and that means so much to me.

“He absolutely goes under the radar, I think he’s been outstanding all season. When Man of Steel points are handed out, I think he’s overlooked. He probably deserves to have about 12 Man of Steel points already, but that’s just my opinion.

“I know the playing group in there (the dressing room) feel the same way about Sione, he’s a special player and a special person.”

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