Peter Mata’utia knows exactly how people feel when they step into their local food bank or soup kitchen.
The Castleford Tigers centre grew up in Sydney in a family that needed help from its local community with domestic violence a damaging issue at home. The 30-year-old has never forgotten what he went through, and – until Covid restrictions temporarily prevented him – would volunteer at Pontefract Food Bank and Street Kitchen every week.
Mata’utia explained: “I grew up with domestic violence in the house, and we were always in homes and food banks. My parents split up when I was younger for certain reasons, and I used to watch my mum get beat up from dad.
“We were in and out of our house and home shelters, visited places like food banks, and that's the main reason I want to give back. Without those kind of things I wouldn’t be where I am now, so I like to help out in the community.
“My mother always taught me to treat others like you wanted to be treated, and that it’s free to be kind. I like to take my kids there to see how good they’ve got it as well, and I want them to grow up being humble.”
Mata’utia’s work outside of rugby extends even beyond the distribution of food to those who need it most. He has also helped children from tough backgrounds get into sport alongside team-mate Jesse Sene-Lafao, is an ambassador for the Tigers Learning Disability Rugby League team, and works with leading charity Community Integrated Care.
But his return to pre-season training earlier this month – with a Tigers side he admits underachieved last season – means much of that work now has to take a frustrating back seat. Mata’utia added: “At the moment it’s pretty tough to get hands on with Covid.
“Because I’m back in our rugby bubble now it’s been stopped completely, although I still talk to them a fair bit. It’s been tough because I really enjoy getting out there and having conversations with people, learning about them and what they’re doing.
“Just to see them smiling is the biggest factor, they’re so grateful for what they have and it keeps me humble – sometimes what you have is enough.
“I’m hoping that crowds can get in when we come back because I know in Castleford especially it will make a massive difference in the community.
“You can see that with people leaving their ticket money with us, not many have pulled out. Rugby league is such a big factor in communities and can make a massive difference.”
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