OUTSTANDING youngster Peter Mata’utia gets his first chance to make up for lost time when he plays for a second-string Newcastle Knights outfit in a trial match against Parramatta at Armidale on Saturday.
Mata’utia appeared a star on the rise when he made his NRL debut in 2011, scoring two tries in five games and showing enough potential for incoming coach Wayne Bennett to offer him a two-year contract.
But the former Australian Schoolboys representative experienced a reality check last year, starting when he tore knee ligaments in the preseason.
He was not used in the top grade until Newcastle’s round-14 loss to Canberra at Hunter Stadium, and his nervous, error-riddled display proved to be his only NRL game all season.
In July, the goalkicking utility back suffered a cracked larynx, which needed life-saving surgery and ended his season.
On Saturday, he will line up alongside his younger brother Chanel in a composite team of NSW Cup-contracted players and Newcastle Rugby League triallists, who will be coached by Rick Stone.
‘‘Parramatta are up in Armidale having a bit of a training camp, so they could throw anyone up at us,’’ Stone said yesterday.
‘‘But for us it was always going to be a trial for our fringe sort of players in reserve grade.
‘‘I think we’ve got eight contracted players and a few boys from the local comp who have been training with us through the pre-season, hoping to get a start in the NSW Cup.
‘‘We got the local clubs to nominate players they thought might be up to the standard and we’ll see how they go on Saturday.’’
Stone, who will remain as Wayne Bennett’s assistant coach this year, said he was looking forward to taking charge of the NSW Cup outfit.
Bennett will roll out his top squad for trials against Souths in Coffs Harbour on February 16 and Cronulla in Tamworth a week later.
NEW YEAR: Peter Mata’utia will be out to make a positive start to 2013 in Armidale. Picture: Simone De Peak