New Penrith recruit Suaia Matagi has been handed the chance to not only head home to Auckland but to play his first minutes in Penrith colours in front of his home crowd.
Matagi, who played his junior football in west Auckland - just minutes away from the Point Chevalier Pirates home ground where he spoke to NRL.com, said he was excited to be home for his first senior game in Penrith colours.
The former Rooster and Warrior was getting packed for a trial in Papua New Guinea when the late notice came to get ready for a surprise stint at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
"I was just trying to get my head around PNG, I was looking forward to it thinking it was going to be a challenge to head up there but I got the late call up and I'm more excited to head back home!" Matagi laughed.
The 27-year-old was more than happy though to head back to where it all began, just a few minutes' drive from his junior clubs of Te Atatu Roosters and Mount Albert Lions.
"It was a good surprise, I was really excited," he said.
"I was excited to go to PNG, I've never been there before, but it was more exciting to hear I was coming back home.
"It'll be my first time [running out for Penrith] so I'm really looking forward to it. It was one of my goals at the start of pre-season just to get a start so I'm really happy with that."
Matagi conceded he'd had little preparation for the Nines format but was keen to find out how he'd go.
"I think it's anyone's game but I'm excited to go out with the boys. We've got a good, young team and a lot of talent," he said.
Matagi was particularly excited to see how junior stars such as Te Maire Martin and Zach Dockar Clay would go in their first senior hit-outs for the club.
"This is their chance and opportunity and I know they're going to step up," Matagi said.
The Panthers will play in Rangitoto Pool alongside the Knights, Wests Tigers and inaugural Auckland Nines champions the Cowboys.
This article first appeared on NRL.com.