Sea Eagles like ’09 Eels, says Mateo

It was in this round six years ago that Feleti Mateo returned from injury to jump on Parramatta’s Hayne plane rocketing towards an NRL Grand Final.

Now the Manly forward is experiencing a similar feeling at Brookvale.

Less than two months after sitting in last spot, the Sea Eagles can enter the top eight for the first time this year with a win over arch-rivals Parramatta on Sunday, having won six of their last seven games.

And Mateo sees obvious parallels – and also a big difference – when comparing what’s happening for Manly with the Parramatta side that won seven of its last eight games to sneak into the finals in 2009.

“It’s a similar sort of feel,” said Mateo.

“I came in one game before the semis (from injury) and it was good to watch the boys go on that run.

“But Parra had Jarryd Hayne, who was untouchable then.

“Here we have a collective effort where guys are playing good one week or another.”

This week’s clash against Parramatta will bring up the 200-game milestone for Mateo, who once doubted his ability after being cut by the Eels following his rookie season in 2004.

He spent one year in the Super League before coming back as a key member at the Eels.

“There were probably times in my career where I didn’t think I’d get here (to 200),” Mateo said.

“That was definitely one time, getting shipped off at 21.”

He later returned to the NRL after one year in the Super League intent on proving his critics wrong.

“I felt I had a point to prove to people, when people didn’t think I was good enough to play in the NRL,” said Mateo.

“But 200 games on, I guess I’ve proved a few people wrong,”

The Sea Eagles were spanked 42-12 by the Eels in this year’s season-opener, a humiliation Mateo said the team hadn’t forgotten.

“We got embarrassed at the start of the year, so we’ll be looking out to get that win,” he said.

“We were disappointed after that game, but we’re totally different team now. We’ll be going in confident, but not underestimating what’s in front of us.”

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