He missed the World Cup with Samoa and had new contract talks put on hold after a spate of concussions raised fears about his long-term playing future.
But Newcastle Knights star Sione Mata’utia is finally back doing full contact at training and is on the verge of being given the all-clear by specialists to resume his career. Mata’utia is expected to see the club’s concussion specialist Dr Andrew Gardner in the next few days to get a final clearance after receiving a favorable report from a Melbourne concussion expert following a series of tests.
“It is all looking very positive for Sione,”Knights head of football Darren Mooney confirmed.
“Obviously, his welfare is the most important thing and with his history of concussions, he has been given the best possible care.
“He is yet to see Dr Gardner but that will happen in the next few days and hopefully, everything will be ticked off then.”
Mata’utia’s aggressive tackling technique under fatigue has been blamed for the spate of head-knocks he has received at NRL level.
But real concerns over his long-term health were raised after the head knock he received playing against Melbourne on August 19 last season – his fifth known concussion of the past two seasons.
The 21-year-old back-rower was subsequently stood down from the Knights’ final two games of the season despite passing the NRL’s concussion protocols.
He was then a last-minute withdrawal from the Samoan side for the World Cup on medical advice.
After starting his career at the Knights and playing for the Kangaroos as an 18-year-old on the wing before a shift into the centres, Mata’utia has found himself in the backrow over the past 18 months after being shifted there by Knights coach Nathan Brown.
But he is back training in the centres and is almost certain to start there this season.