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Manly Sea Eagles utility Feleti Mateo urges young Polynesians to find their voice

Manly utility Feleti Mateo has urged the NRL’s growing army of young Polynesian players to find their voice because their shy nature placed them at risk of being manipulated, including at the negotiation table.
Nanjing Night Net

When asked whether young Polynesians were paid what they’re worth, the Tongan international said while that was an issue that came back to the ability of their manager, he believed many were not.

“If they have the right management who are looking out for their best needs [yes], but from what I’ve seen there’s a lot of kids that don’t,” he said.

“Especially over in New Zealand. A lot seem scared to leave the comfort of their family, which is understandable, and they’re probably taking less money to stay at home and that’s probably also happening in Sydney and Brisbane.

“They can get under-managed I think, and not to their best needs. That comes down to the individual. I think a lot of kids are believing what they’re told … but I also think kids knowing what they’re worth has come a long way, there’s some big egos coming through.”

The 30-year-old journeyman , expressed his view because he believed the next generation of stars shouldn’t be penalised because of shyness.

“I think it’s important young guys speak out , especially the Polynesian kids because they’re usually shy and when they want things done it’s hard for them to communicate,” Mateo said.

“When I got older, got more confidence and learnt things, I spoke out about things but I found things out the hard way. Now I’m older I think I can offer these kids advice not to do the things I did.”

Mateo said the quiet nature and unwillingness to create waves meant the Polynesian footballer was prone to being taken advantage of, even on the home front.

“One hundred per cent, [they can be taken advantage of] mate, I saw that first hand in New Zealand,” he said.

“It’s dominated by Polynesian’s over there and … living with families …  there’s a high expectation on them to make it. If they get the sniff of any hope, all the eggs go into one basket for that one kid and when things don’t work out so well as they could, it’s pretty hard for the kids.

“I saw a lot of that over there and I think it’s something the game could do even more for.”

While the NRL identified it as a priority to work with Polynesians after the suicides of some under-20 players, Mateo gathered from talking to young players during his time at the Warriors that they didn’t feel as though there was help available.

“I’m not sure if Jerry Seuseu [former Kiwi prop] is still the welfare officer over there but [while I was in Auckland] he was doing a great job, doing his best, but I don’t think it’s looked at enough.

“When I left [the Warriors] it was very results based. If you weren’t getting the job done it was all that mattered. From being around for as long as I have I feel there’s a lot more to getting the best out of a player and that’s something I want to help guys get through.”

Mateo said the expectations on a talented Polynesian player to become the bread-winner for his extended family was a pressure many of the players struggled to cope with.

“That can drive a lot of kids but it breaks a lot of them, too, having that pressure,” he said. “If it’s addressed – and it’s a common thing – it could help a lot of kids.”

Mateo also scuttled rumours he was headed to French-based Super League side Catalans at the end of the season.

“I’ve heard a few rumours about my future but as far as I’m concerned I have one more year here and I’m going to honour that,” he said. “I’ve loved my time so far and with this squad we’ve got and I feel like we can do good things.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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