Feleti Mateo was omitted from Manly’s NRL trip to take on the Warriors to help his ill wife, says coach Trent Barrett.
Barrett also admitted he was unhappy with his backrower’s form over the past fortnight, and he will instead play NSW Cup in Sydney as he looks after his family.
“He (Mateo) has had a rough week – his wife had a baby last week and she’s been ill again all week,” Barrett said at Sydney airport on Thursday.
“The fact that he’d be away from his partner probably wasn’t ideal, so it was more a personal thing for Feleti.”
Barrett conceded the former Warriors forward was one of a handful of players who weren’t up to scratch in last week’s close loss to South Sydney.
But allowing Mateo to look after his family’s welfare was the priority.
“We were a bit off last week, a few of us, but there’s a few reasons around why Feleti’s not here and the situation at home is one of them. It’s important that he’s at home with his wife at the moment,” he said.
Forward Tom Symonds, who has played 52 minutes in his one appearance of the season in round three, will start in Mateo’s absence at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
Barrett also confirmed that key forward Jake Trbojevic would play after missing last week with a knee issue. Blake Leary and Luke Burgess are likely to drop off the bench.
“Tommy’s right. He’s got through everything so he’s fine,” Barrett said.
“We’ve got a healthy squad there and I brought 19 just in case. You never know, we’ve still got a training session to get through.”
After going down to the Rabbitohs last week, Barrett said it was crucial his 13th-placed side stayed in touch with the ladder leaders by winning in Auckland despite being without star Daly Cherry-Evans.
“The leaders are on eight, and we’re on four – so you just can’t let them get too far away,” he said.
“Winning these games without Cherry is important. We get him back in a month’s time and that’ll be a bonus. Jamie Buhrer will be back as well.
“We’ve got things to look forward to, but we need to keep winning in the meantime.”