Mateo's Brian Snap HE IS one of the hottest prospects in the NRL and has just signed a three-year deal with Parramatta worth more than $700,000, but Feleti Mateo won't easily forget the words of his former coach, Brian Smith. "He basically told me I couldn't play," said Mateo, who has come through the Parramatta juniors. "When I signed [my previous] contract, he promised me the world, told me how I would be in the top 25 players and that I'd get a lot of time in first grade. "I played one first-grade game in 2004 and I thought I went all right. But he kind of cast me aside after that, like he was annoyed that I had done something wrong. I felt like I didn't belong - just the way he would act towards you ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¦ I have heard he did that to a lot of players. It just proves it by how many players left the club." After playing his one first-grade match in 2004, against Melbourne, Mateo was cast back to the reserves, and by the middle of the season was so unhappy he decided to move to London and play in the Super League. Five months later he returned to Australia, but again was left languishing in premier league. It wasn't until this season, with Smith departing for Newcastle and former Knights coach Michael Hagan taking over at Parramatta, that 22-year-old Mateo was given a chance to show his talents in the NRL. And the back-rower has set the rugby league world alight, with Eels chief executive Denis Fitzgerald describing the retention of Mateo as the most pleasing of three contracts he signed last Tuesday. Mateo admitted he was staggered by the money being thrown at him by rivals Manly and then his own club. "It is overwhelming to think I am worth that much," he said. "It was 50-50 for a while. Manly were chasing me hard. I knew what I wanted to do - I wanted to stay at Parramatta. At first, Parramatta didn't come with the same enthusiasm as Manly, but in the end they did, so I was relieved." Smith's early assessment of Mateo's ability wasn't the only time his self-confidence had taken a knock, with a former school coach telling him he would never make it. "I always had doubts about myself, whether I was good enough," Mateo said. "This year, playing first grade regularly, realising I was good enough, put a lot of questions I had to bed." And anyone who thinks Mateo's wonderful chip-and-chase try against the Roosters two weeks ago was a fluke should know that he is a natural playmaker who started at five-eighth alongside halfback Benji Marshall in the Australian Schoolboys team in 2003, and alongside Todd Carney in the Junior Kangaroos the following year. "I want to develop into a consistent footy player," Mateo said. "I've had my ups and downs at Parramatta, but the people at the club now were the main reason I stayed, and I don't want to let them down." Mateo has been ruled out of tonight's clash against the Warriors , but will return next week. The Eels do welcome back centre Timana Tahu and prop Fuifui Moimoi, while Warriors back-rower Wairangi Koopu plays his first NRL game since injuring his shoulder last August.