After an injury-interrupted start to 2017, Ben Matulino showed no problems with injury throughout 2018 as he produced a very strong debut year for the club.
Not the headline-grabbing, metre-eating presence of others, Matulino's strength throughout the year lied in his consistency. Playing the most games in a single season since 2013, the Kiwi international was a "set and forget" player each week for Wests Tigers and was a vital cog in Wests Tigers engine room as a result.
Having retired from international football to focus further on producing his best at his new club, Matulino quietly racked up over 2100 metres and 600 tackles at an impressive 92.7 tackle efficiency rate.
Closing in on 250 NRL games next season, the 29-year-old will no doubt look to produce another consistent season next year as he helps set the tone for Wests Tigers in the middle of the field.
WHAT STOOD OUT IN 2018
Matulino's consistency throughout the year was what stood out in 2018, but when he did have a dominant individual performance, those games came at crucial times for Wests Tigers. He didn't always post big numbers, but when he did, it was when his team needed them most. He racked up 138 metres and 35 tackles in the win over North Queensland back in Round 10 — a game that had the hosts on the verge of a four-game losing streak — before chalking up 127 metres and 28 tackles against the Canberra Raiders in Round 22 — helping end a run of heavy defeats against the Green Machine to stay in the finals hunt.
WHAT'S TO COME IN 2019
With Tim Grant and Sauaso Sue departing Wests Tigers, the opportunity will be there for some of the younger front rowers — Alex Twal, Oliver Clark, Thomas Mikaele and Josh Aloiai — to really step up in the middle of the field. The role of Matulino (and close friend Russell Packer) will certainly be key in how those players go about making the transition in to the NRL and making an impact in the top grade. Having two experienced, smart middles who know their role and go about it with little fuss, is a huge boost for the
MILESTONES AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Wests Tigers Debut — Round 1 vs. Sydney Roosters, ANZ Stadium (10/03/18)