After surpassing some of rugby league’s greatest ever names as the youngest ever Kangaroo, young gun Sione Mata’utia was asked by Australian veteran Billy Slater how he felt and the Newcastle utility back didn’t know what to say.
At 18 years and 129 days old, Mata’utia become Australia’s youngest debutant in their nailbiting 16-12 win over England at AAMI Park on Sunday, eclipsing the record held by dual international Israel Folau and Brad Fittler before him.
Like most in the rugby league world the injured Slater, a veteran of 25 Tests for Australia, wanted to know how the teenager felt.
“Billy Slater asked me how I felt out there and I didn’t know what to say, I’m speechless,” Mata’utia, who held his own in the tense win, told AAP.
“I am waiting for it all to sink in … what an experience.
“Not too many people get to enjoy something like that. I am truly grateful.
“Everything was up a notch, you don’t get any time to take a rest, you are constantly puffing and huffing, I struggled there a bit.
The seven-game NRL rookie let in a first half try to his opposite Ryan Hall when he left his right wing to tackle centre Dan Sarginson, who slipped a pass to his outside man.
But Mata’utia made up for that gaffe, taking a high ball from England pivot Gareth Widdop under great pressure late in the game as the visitors pressed for the win.
“I had a million things going through my head (with that ball in the air) but as a winger that is your job to get up there and take those clutch balls,” Mata’utia said.
“Fight or flight, that was my mentality. I knew I would have to scrap for it.
“Fortunately I did grab it and everything was fine after that.”
Fittler presented Mata’utia with his game jersey as the youngster entered rugby league’s record books.
“It is the icing on the cake,” Mata’utia said.
“Those names, I can’t believe I have done that, to have Brad Fittler present me with the jersey that was really special.
“It made me realise it is a jersey you shouldn’t take for granted and the players who have worn it in the past have worn it with pride and I wanted to go out and do the same and hopefully I did that for my country.”