Injury to Matai rules him out By AARON LAWTON - Sunday News | Sunday, 26 August 2007 New Zealand's Sea Eagles star Steve Matai is virtually no chance of suiting up and squaring off against the Warriors this afternoon. Matai was part of the Manly squad that flew into Auckland on Friday ahead of this afternoon's clash at Mt Smart Stadium. But yet to recover from a bulging disc in his neck, the Kiwis centre believes he may have to go under the knife in the next few weeks if there is little improvement. "(Coach) Des Hasler just thought it would be good for me to get a change of scenery and to come home and see the parents and family for a little while," Matai told Sunday News. "I'm very grateful to Des and the staff for that." Matai left the field clutching his neck in round 20 against the Eels and said there was a good chance he would not play again this year. "My neck's not too bad. It's improving slowly but all I can do is just get treatment and hopefully it settles down," he said. "I'm getting some light rubs from the physio and immobilising the neck. "I've spoken to the doctor about it and he's said that at the end of the year we might have to do something surgically on it. "If it settles down we won't have to so I'm really hoping it comes right." While desperate to taste finals football this year, Matai said he would not risk his playing future by rushing to return from what is a serious injury. "There's a big chance I might not play again this season but I'm not going to rush back just to play a grand final," he said. "The boys are playing really well without me so I'm in no hurry to get back." If he undergoes surgery, Matai is considered no chance of joining the Kiwis on their end of year "All Golds" tour to the United Kingdom. "I think it will be eight weeks before I can start running so I'm basically going to be out for the whole off-season," he added. "I'll be able to start fresh in the pre-season. "I don't know if I will be in the picture for the Kiwis anyway because I haven't been playing for a while. "It's always an honour to represent your country and I don't want to miss the opportunity to do that." Matai boarded the plane with his team-mates for Auckland on Friday but is not expected to play due to a neck injury. And despite the fact Manly have little to play for, the centre said it was important to return to the winners' circle after last week's loss. "The Warriors are always tough to play at home especially when it's in front of a sell-out crowd this Sunday," Matai said. "I think the boys are going to try and grind the game out. Once we come into the semis all the games are going to be tough like that. "The frustrating thing for me is that I'm on the sideline and I want to be part of the side that's going so well. "The boys are being pretty level-headed and we are not getting too far ahead of ourselves." Matai said he had been texting close friend but on-field enemy Jerome Ropati in the build-up to the match and admitted he was disappointed not to be able to lay a few hits on the in-form centre. "I was texting Jerome a bit and just giving him hell," Matai said. "The Warriors are a funny group of guys. You give it to them and they give it back. I'm disappointed that I can't play this weekend in front of a sell-out crowd. "I was talking to my mates earlier in the week and they were telling me that it was already sold out. I'll be strapped for tickets this weekend."