Once called by journalist Dave Hadfield "an explosive mix of saint and sinner, " Vila Matautia first came to our attention for newly-promoted Doncaster against St.Helens in a First Division fixture at Knowsley Road at the start of the 1994-95 season which the Saints duly lost. Fans will recall a huge guy in the centres with his socks rolled down, who took several players to stop his progress every time he got the ball. It was not long before Doncasterís financial troubles meant that Vila Matautia was headed for Knowsley Road and over the next few years he developed into one of the most explosive impact players in the Super League competition.
Vila is from a Western Samoan family who moved to Auckland when he was young. He was always a pretty uncompromising guy on the field and nobody can ever recall him backing down from anyone. His mere presence as an interchange player would totally dispirit the opposition. They hated that moment when the big guy entered the field because they new exactly what to expect. If they did manage to eventually stop his progress, the chances are that Vila would have left a series of sprawling bodies with copious stud marks across their chest. Close to the line, he was virtually un-stoppable, with all the subtlety of a charging rhino.
Yet he always seemed to attract controversy and was a regular visitor to the disciplinary panel in Leeds. At times his tackling technique needed some fine tuning, but it always seemed his reputation was instrumental in him getting more than his fair share of fines and suspensions. Dave Hadfield summed him up perfectly when he said that some players can make dubious tackles look innocent, whilst Matautia can make routine efforts look like mayhem.
Vila won virtually every honour in the game whilst at St.Helens and it was a great plus to see opposition players wince on seeing his name in the Saints line up. Thereís nothing quite like a bit of fire in the pack, after all. Off the field, however, Vila remains quietly spoken and a true gentleman. He opened up a pub in St.Helens town centre called the Sin Bin, although he is now believed to be working in the building trade. He had a final fling with Leigh Centurions before retiring from the game. Many people were breathing a sigh of relief on hearing that news!
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