CHANEL Mata’utia is poised to play in the Newcastle Rugby League premiership next season after leaving teammates and coaching staff at the Knights stunned by walking away from the final year of his contract.
Mata’utia dropped the bombshell just three days into pre-season training earlier this month, telling the club he was burnt out and did not want to continue playing in the NRL after four years at the club.
“He walked off the field halfway through a session, saying he no longer wanted to play at this level anymore,” a Knights source said.
“The commitment to full-time training just wore thin with him and he was over it.
“It was a big shock for everyone but now that he has made the decision, he is in a good place welfare-wise. It was obviously getting him down and playing on his mind. He has done it for all the right reasons.”
The Knights were last night finalising his release with his management before making his departure official with his decision to walk away set to cost Mata’utia close to $200,000.
It will leave just two Mata’utia brothers, Sione and Pat, remaining at the club with eldest brother Peter having already exited at the end of last season after signing a three year deal with English club Leigh Centurions.
The club is confident lingering doubts over the fitness of Sione after a series of bad concussions in the past two seasons will be alleviated.
The Knights co-captain is expected to see a specialist within the next week in the hope of being given the all clear to resume contact training.
Chanel’s decision to quit the Knights won’t see him walk away from the game completely.
The 25-year-old former Australian Schoolboy representative managed just 13 NRL games in four seasons at the Knights.
He has no intention of retiring and has already been in negotiations with several Newcastle clubs headed by Cessnock, Lakes United and Kurri.
In a statement released by the Knights, Mata’utia said: “The club has been great to me and I will miss everyone, but it is the right time for me to step away from the game at this level.
“I plan to play in the local competition and find a job, as my family and I move on to the next stage of our lives.
“I am comfortable with my decision and want to thank everyone at the club, and also the fans, for all of the support.”
Knights football manager Darren Mooney said: “We thank Chanel for his contribution to the club and respect his decision to make this change. We wish Chanel and his family all the best for the future.”
The Newcastle Herald understands Cessnock are the frontrunners for his signature with the lure of a mining job believed to be a major carrot.
Injuries and bad luck were major factors in restricting him to just 13 games during his four seasons in the senior ranks at the Knights.
He debuted for the club along with Sione in 2014 in round 20 against the Sydney Roosters, the first time in 72 years two brothers had debuted in the same game.
He finished that season on a real high, scoring five tries in seven games, including a hattrick against Parramatta.
But despite signing a new three-year contract in a package deal with Sione and Pat in early 2015, his career stalled.
He played just one top-grade game that year and cruelly suffered a serious knee injury in the opening round of the 2016 season that virtually wrote off another year.
Bad luck followed him last season when he suffered a hamstring injury at training in early March. He ended up making just four NRL appearances, which included an ill-fated game against the Roosters where he was knocked out and heavily concussed after collecting a stray elbow from Blake Ferguson.
Meanwhile, as many as five Newcastle clubs, headed by Lakes, are in negotiations with Cessnock junior and former Knights, Canberra and Wests Tigers backrower Joel Edwards for next season.