By James Hooper | September 28, 2008 12:00am http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/sport/nrl/story/0,26799,24411994-5006066,00.html BENEATH the corn rows, tattoos, shoulder charges and cold stares, Manly intimidator Steve Matai has revealed his brush with gang life on the streets of Auckland. Born and raised in the central suburb of Mt Roskill, Matai has warned about the perils of being lured into the wrong crew after being forced to rescue his younger brother Charlie from a hazardous path. In 2006, Matai returned home to play for Manly against the Warriors and discovered Charlie had been arrested and charged with aggravated robbery. Disturbed by the road his brother had chosen, the Kiwi international intervened. When Charlie was done with his community service, Matai organised for him to move to Sydney, get a job and start a new life. "I saw a lot of gang life growing up, but I think it's getting a lot worse now,'' Matai said. "My brother's just turned 19, which is the perfect age for all that stuff to be going on. "At the time, before he moved here, he was getting into a lot of trouble with gangs and boys around the neighbourhood. "Now he's going good. He's got a job out here and his girlfriend has come over and he's happy. "I'm glad he's not hanging around with that sort of crowd anymore. I'm glad he's left that life behind.'' Steve Matai isn't one to take no for an answer. When the Manly centre first trialled with the Sea Eagles in 2005, he was told there was no room for him. The advice was to pack his bags and return to the Sea Eagles' feeder club in Brisbane. Matai refused, telling coach Des Hasler he would stay for nothing. By the time the opening round of the season rolled around, Matai had forced his way into the centres. Midway through 2006, he developed a bulging disc in his neck. Rather than booking in for surgery, Matai played on. His reward was a Kiwi Test jumper. "I don't think I played too well in my first trial with the club. So I spoke to my manager and said 'look, just organise anything. I'll stay here for nothing','' Matai said. "Manly were going to send me back to their feeder club in Queensland, which was Wynumm-Manly. So I agreed to stay for nothing. "If I played NRL, I got match payments. That was it.'' Hasler is an unabashed Matai fan, warning opposition teams against underestimating the Kiwi Test centre. One school of thought is the Eagles can't win the premiership without Matai. His steely-edged attitude towards defence is a must in finals football. "The greatest attribute Steve brings to the team is that the players really like playing with him,'' Hasler said. "I tend to think a lot of opposition teams might mistakenly underrate Steve. "He's worked really hard to get where he is. He's got a real tough edge to his game. "As he's getting older, he tapers it a little bit, but that's just a natural part of his game. "He's had a few injuries, but he works hard and he's very professional about his recovery.''