Talk to Steve Matai about Jamie Lyon and ‘the other centre’ smiles.
“Jamie is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, one of the best players I’ve ever played with,’’ Matai said.
“Here at Manly, I’ve always been ‘the other centre’ outside of Jamie, and that suits me fine.
“I’m just honoured, happy and blessed to be ‘Killer’s’ centre partner for the past 10 years. I’m very grateful.”
Centre partners and Life Members of Manly. Four grand finals and two premierships together. A massive 444 games for Manly between them.
A bond that never will be broken outside the football field.
Through the tortures of pre-summer training, the heavy sweat of gym work, team videos, the endless travel, to the gruelling physical demands of the season on their ageing bodies, Lyon and Matai have been together.
Over the years, Matai has loved the soft nature and the calming influence of Lyon, the man nick-named ‘Killer’.
Matai admits he will miss that dry country humour from the boy from Narrabri when 34-year-old Lyon retires at the end of the season.
“For sure, whether it be on the team bus, or in the change rooms, Jamie is just so funny,’’ Matai said.
“He is so uplifting. You never see Jamie in a bad mood or angry at anybody. That just shows the person and the man he is. He is a great family man.”
When the Sea Eagles launched their 2016 Season at Luna Park, there were plenty of smiles at the famous harbour landmark as it was a night which saw Matai, Lyon and their ‘great mate’ Brett Stewart presented with Life Membership together.
Matai couldn’t attend, choosing to be by the side of his pregnant partner, Kate, as they waited for the birth of their third child. Family is important to Lyon and Matai with both making themselves unavailable for representative teams in the past to be with their young families.
“The Life Membership is something now that we will take to the grave. The three of us are now bonded for life,’’ Matai said.
“We always were, but it just makes even more so that we got to share that experience together.”
And whilst they do socialise together, the one place where you won’t see Lyon and Matai together much is on the golf course.
“I am not a big golfer. ‘Killer’ is always asking me to come and have a hit with him. But my shoulder and neck has never been up to par, pardon the par,’’ said a laughing Matai.
“Jamie is always out playing golf with the Trbojevic brothers. He just lives and breathes golf.”
And just like they have for the past 10 years, Matai and Lyon will continue to give their all for the Sea Eagles for the remainder of the season until the full-time whistle is blown on their last game together.
“Jamie’s decision to retire gives us more motivation to send him out the best way we know how, that’s by winning and hopefully giving him a premiership ring to walk away with to go along with his other two,” Matai said.
Lyon will then happily walk off into the sunset, one more than likely overlooking a lush golf course on the Northern Beaches. Awaiting him will be his family and plenty of fairways to hit.
“I’m just blessed and honoured to call Jamie my mate. I am very, very happy for him,” Matai added.
“Manly will always be his home. He won’t ever be far away. He will be somewhere on the golf course.”
Manly: 215 games, 84 tries, 512 goals, 1360 points; Career: 285 games, 120 tries, 512 goals, 1504 points.
Manly/Career: 229 games, 91 tries, 20 goals, 404 points.