23 Jan 09 @ 02:20pm by PETER PETERS - Saturday's Manly Daily We are yet to see the best of Steve Matai according to his former Manly centre partner Steve Bell. STEVE MataiÃ¢Â€Â™s departed grand final centre partner Steve Bell says opposition backs are in for a torrid time opposing the Sea Eagles powerhouse in 2009. Matai has been hampered by neck and shoulder problems in the past two seasons but has still managed to be one of the most explosive centres in the game. Off-season surgery to both problems appear to have been successful and Matai is confident he will start the season in top shape. Bell said from his new home in France that Matai was a Ã¢Â€ÂœscaryÃ¢Â€Â prospect for any opposition. Ã¢Â€ÂœHe has been awesome despite carrying injuries into every match - imagine what he can do when he is fit and well - and he is still only 24,Ã¢Â€Â Bell said. Ã¢Â€ÂœA lot of people consider him to be simply a great defensive centre but he did some wonderful things in attack during the final series last year. Ã¢Â€ÂœHe has good hands and is always aware of where his wingers are. The wingers had great seasons but they need the ball at the right time and Stevie does that well.Ã¢Â€Â Many good judges consider a player doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t mature fully until he plays 80 first grade games. Matai has played just 67 in the NRL and is preparing for his fifth season with the club after joining as an unknown and raw 20-year-old in 2005 on loan for two weeks of summer training by the Wynnum Manly club in Brisbane. It is now part of Manly history that coach Des Hasler liked what he saw and Wynnum Manly never got a single game out of their new buy. Centres who want to be part of the tough stuff helping out the forwards a few metres from their own line, charging into the teeth of a heavyweight defence are rare but Matai is just that player. He was brought up in the tough streets around central Auckland and comes from a very close-knit family who follow his career closely. In the 2006 season Manly prepared for the game against the Warriors in the grounds of the army barracks in Auckland - a secret location away from prying eyes. Suddenly two vans with black tinted windows arrive with six big men in each van jumping out to watch training. Ã¢Â€ÂœDonÃ¢Â€Â™t worry Des - itÃ¢Â€Â™s just my bros and my dad,Ã¢Â€Â Matai told his coach. ONE of ManlyÃ¢Â€Â™s great old warriors in Noel Cleal admits to shedding a tear last Monday night when the community turned out in their hundreds to support his wife Shelly in her battle against breast cancer. They came in a variety of Sea Eagles jerseys from all eras to turn Hoyts at Warringah Mall into a maroon and white party. Youngsters sat alongside their Manly grand final heroes and cheered every try and big hit in the grand final replay on the big screen. The sellout turnout was a magnificent success with a total of $23,992.50 raised on the evening. The money will go towards paying the mounting medical bills the Cleals face as Shelly continues her courageous battle. There were many familiar faces in the theatre. Spotted in the crowd was seven-time world surfing champion and Eagles Angel Layne Beachley and her fiance Kirk Pengilly, Manly MP Mike Baird, Manly Mayor Jean Hay and her husband David, Sea Eagles co-owners Rick, Heather, Scott and Nicola Penn along with Fox SportsÃ¢Â€Â™ Andy Raymond and Trent Higgs. The magical moment when Steve Menzies scored his farwell try on the biggest stage of all provided the biggest roar ever let out from a movie theatre. Management of Hoyts at the Mall deserve thanks for providing the theatre and staff free of charge.