PETER Mata’utia can appreciate how difficult it is for Knights teammate Rory Kostjasyn to come back from his throat injury.
A stray elbow to the throat, like the one that has left Kostjasyn facing an uncertain future, almost cost Mata’utia his life.
Mata’utia underwent an emergency tracheostomy in July 2012 while having scans on his larynx, which was damaged during a reserve grade match for Newcastle.
“I copped an elbow to the throat, it broke my larynx and my throat filled up with blood,” Mata’utia recalled.
“I went to jump in the CAT scan and I just couldn’t breathe, I stopped breathing then the surgeon had to cut my throat open and chuck the tube down.
“It was just one of those things that makes me realise that life’s too short and I should be thankful for what I have.”
Kostjasyn was hit with an accidental elbow during pre-season training and he continues to have breathing problems despite two operations to repair a fractured cricoid cartilage. Knights coach Nathan Brown said on Friday night that Kostjasyn, one of the club’s key signings this year, was out indefinitely and conceded he may not play again.
Mata’utia could empathise with Kostjasyn’s battle.
“It is a tough injury, especially trying to come back and get some contact work in,” he said. “I watched him train this morning and he looked pretty good and hopefully we can get him back sooner than later.
“I spoke to him about it and told him about what happened to me. For him, it’s just trying to do those little things right, which he does do, and trying to get himself back on this field because he knows we really need him.”
Asked how his throat is now, Mata’utia said: “I’ve had no trouble with it, only that I can’t sing with the family when we have a few beverages. But it’s good. I’m sweet.”
This week marks a year since the now 26-year-old returned to Newcastle after gaining a release from the Dragons, who are now top of the NRL table.
Although the Knights remain bottom of the ladder, the centre believes the club are on the way up and he is keen to stay on board past this season.
“I’ve seen a big result just in how much the young boys have changed, how much they have developed on the field and off the field as well,” he said. “I’m off contract and I’d love to stay because I can see where this club’s heading. And Browny’s got a great plan in place and I want to be a part of it.”
Newcastle have been in the contest in all but one match this year but have just one win to show for it after seven rounds. They head to North Queensland to take on the Cowboys on Saturday and Mata’utia said simply being competitive was “not enough” for him this year.
“It is good to be competitive but we should have won those first few games,” he said. “And I’m pretty sure the boys are feeling the same. They want to win games. Last year, competitiveness could have been enough, but we know we’re good enough this year to win games.”
“Hopefully we can get these two wins away heading into the weekend off.”
Mata’utia said the Knights would take encouragement from the 24-6 loss to the Roosters last Friday night in which Newcastle trailed 12-6 until the 63rd minute.
“It was a good challenge for them,” Mata’utia said.
“I spoke to a few of the Roosters boys and they were saying we were their toughest game this year so far, so it’s a positive sign for us and we just need to start rewarding ourselves during the games.
“We do all that hard work and then we just kick it dead or we’re just not getting through our sets properly, so it’s something to work on this week against a good team.”