St Helens v Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia brothers braced for feisty reunion

BROTHERLY love could turn into yet more simmering family feuds for the Mata’utias tonight.

Castleford Tigers centre Pete Mata’utia is set to face his younger sibling Sione, the St Helens second-row, when the Super League rivals collide in the televised clash at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

The pair were due to meet head-on for the first time on British soil last month when the clubs played in the Challenge Cup final.

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However, former Australia international Sione – who joined from Newcastle Knights last autumn – suffered heartbreak when he incurred a one-match ban just days before the Wembley showpiece and was forced to miss out as Saints prospered 26-12.

Yet there was a lovely image of him actually consoling his 30-year-old brother on the turf afterwards, which perfectly illustrated the whole gamut of emotions swirling around.

Sione, 25, conceded: “It was bittersweet. Beforehand I was celebrating like a crazy monkey and then, seeing Pete and how he was approaching, I realised it was pretty harsh for the other side.

“I told him he had a fair crack and, in my opinion, was one of their best players, if not their best. He deserved to win just as much as we did. I told him to keep his head up.

“They played really well. It was unfortunate I didn’t get to play but we came away with the trophy and that was the main thing.”

Peter Mata'utia will face his brother Sione tonight. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

The sides meet for the first time since this evening and the Mata’utias – two of four siblings who all, remarkably, played professionally in the NRL – will this time get to take each other on.

When this has happened before Down Under, invariably there have been onfield disputes.

Pete explained: “When I was at St George (Illawarra) and he was at Newcastle, I tried to fight Sione.

“But we had mutual friends trying to get in the middle.

St Helens' Sione Mata'utia

“Me and my two other brothers have had a couple of punch-ups in games, too. I just think it’s because we don’t treat each other any different; it makes it feel a little bit personal. It never is.

“I’d react the same if anyone else did what that brother did! He grabbed my collar once and sent me flying and I didn’t like that.

“But everyone else is looking forward to it more than me, my team-mates included. They can’t wait to see me get folded for once!

“We’ve played each other a fair bit in the past and I’ve really enjoyed it. We’ve got in a few punch-ups but I’m hoping it’s different this time. I’m trying to be more professional about it.

“But it honestly depends on what Sione does to me on Thursday.”

Sione responded: “He’s the one who’s put it all on me but he’s the one who usual starts it all!

“I did once throw a cheeky elbow at him on the ground and then ran off as I knew I was out of my depth! It’s going to be fun. But we have a job to do.”

Sione made his debut for Newcastle aged just 18 and, a few months later, became Australia’s youngest-ever debutant when he faced England in the 2014 Four Nations. Pete recalled: “As kids, we played a fair bit of backyard footy. It was me and Sione against my two middle brothers (Chanel and Pat). That’s how we tried to even it out.

“For me, the challenge with Sione started when everyone realised how good he could be.”He asked me one time when will I ever admit he’s better than me and I told him if he ever debuted at a younger age than me I’d tell him them.

“But I still haven’t told him – and I’m trying to hold on to it!”

Sione replied: “It’s too late now – I already know I’m better than him! I do remember that. I always tried to chase Pete. He was my eldest brother and the one who set the platform for us three other boys and showed us the way.

“I guess being the youngest I got to watch all three contesting the game – positives and negatives – be a key witness to it all and understand what I needed to do to get there. I was in a good position.”

Eighth-placed Castleford are looking to build on Friday’s 32-18 win at Leeds Rhinos in their bid to reach the top-six but stand-off Jake Trueman has been ruled out for the rest of the season and will undergo back surgery next week.

And they have not won in the league at champions Saints since October 21, 1990 – just a few weeks before Pete Mata’utia was born.