It has taken the best part of a decade, but Manly have finally gotten their man.
Adrian Proszenko, SMH 24.1.15
Feleti Mateo had played just one NRL game for Parramatta when the Sea Eagles first tried to sign him. It's all that was required to see that the Westfield Sports High School product was something special.
"It was about 10 years ago, they offered me a good contract, too," Mateo recalled. "They showed real interest in me but I tried to stay loyal to Parra then. Manly to me was like the other side of the world back then, having grown up with Parra and having all my family there.
"But I had my time at Parra and the Warriors and played two GFs. [Laughing] I probably could have won eight here. That's just life, you win some, you lose some."
Of all the losses, none hurt more than that one on the game's biggest day of 2011.
Ironically, it was to the Sea Eagles, who were too good for Mateo's Warriors. While his previous grand final appearance with Parramatta was all a blur, the 30-year-old hasn't forgotten the pain of the latter defeat. Perhaps, in part, because his new teammates won't let him.
"Kieran [Foran] said this morning that it was one of his proudest moments, beating us in a grand final," Mateo said. "2011 was real good and then these bastards beat us."
It's a case of better late than never. When Mateo recently told Geoff Toovey of the spurned advance, his new coach said: "I wish you came."
Mateo's response: So do I.
"At that time Parra were really keen on me as well, they just couldn't offer as much as Manly so I knocked back Manly even though they were paying more," he said. "I was young and tried to stay loyal but found out the hard way it is more business these days."
The Tongan international learned it can be a cut-throat one at that. He moved across the Tasman as a marquee signing at the Warriors, but towards the end of his four-year stint found himself not just struggling for game time but also a first-grade spot.
A release was sought and granted. Now, having moved to the northern beaches as a replacement for departing backrowers Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough, there is a chance to fulfil his undoubted potential.
"The direction they were going in wasn't best suited for me," he said of the Warriors. "[Getting dropped] was probably the final straw, I realised that wasn't the best place for me.
"I had four different coaches over there in New Zealand in four years, it's hard to get some stability in your playing career when people are coming in with different views. Unfortunately the last one wasn't suited to me.
"I try to hold no grudges, just move on with life. I learned a long time ago that it's a business and you have to look out for yourself, that you need to get to a place you're wanted and can play good footy. I've found that here."
One of the most creative ballplayers in the game - he was Benji Marshall's halves partner in the 2003 Australian Schoolboys side - Mateo is a significant signing for a club that has played in every finals series, including winning two grand finals - since he knocked them back.
"It's a great club, I'm just so happy to now get a chance to be here," he said.