Number's up for Mata'utia as part of Dragons' Gasnier tribute

Peter Mata'utia is delighted to be selected in the centres against the Cowboys. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Peter Mata'utia is delighted to be selected in the centres against the Cowboys. Picture: ROBERT PEET

RUGBY LEAGUE

He's spent most of the year coveting a starting jumper but Peter Mata'utia is grateful to wear the Dragons No 14 jersey this week.

The Dragons will pay tribute to one of their greatest ever players, Reg Gasnier, in their first match at Kogarah since the rugby league Immortal died aged 74 in May.

Gasnier's famous No 3 jersey will be retired for the match against the Cowboys and the honour of playing in his position on such an occasion is not lost on Mata'utia.

"It's a big game for the club in the memory of Reg. We're retiring his jersey for this weekend and it's a real privilege to be back in the team this week," Mata'utia said.

"It means a lot to me just to even play in that position. The club's had a lot of Australia's best centres and it's a real privilege to play in that centre spot."

As the club pauses to remember it's greatest ever centre, who should play there in 2014 remains the biggest selection headache for Dragons coach Paul McGregor.

McGregor was behind the inspired choice of shifting Josh Dugan to the centres in the past month but with his return to the No 1 jersey post-State of Origin seemingly inevitable who should replace him at right centre is shaping as a key selection with the Dragons needing to win the majority of their remaining games to finish in the top eight.

There are no shortage of candidates - Mata'utia, Nathan Green, Joel Thompson and Dugan all featured on the right after a pectoral injury to Dylan Farrell, a specialist right centre, in round six.

Farrell will be breathing down his neck from an extended bench this week after returning from injury and Mata'utia is aware it may be his last chance to cement a NRL spot this year.

"When I first got my crack [in round 13], I played every week like B-Moz [Brett Morris] was coming back the next week," he said.

"That's what making our team play well at the moment. We're getting all our good players back and it'll take a good performance to keep you in the team."

The 23-year-old certainly provides plenty of options for McGregor having played fullback, wing and centre on the left and right - a rarity in the modern game - since joining the club from Newcastle this year.

"That's how I've always been, I enjoy playing both sides," Mata'utia said.

"At the moment I'm enjoying the centres, I love it. Whatever spot I can get in the team I'm grateful for," he said.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop