Three years ago, he trained with his mates on the ground in front of the school.
He lived at Raiwai, a few minutes away by car or bus.
Memories of his years at Marist would have come streaming back yesterday as students at the school welcomed him home.
This was the school that had helped shape his rugby career.
It was where his rise to the top rungs of the sport started.
The Vanuavatu, Lau native had a message for Marist students yesterday.
It was about working hard and attending to the little things.
The little things, he said, quite often, would make a difference.
He should know. Mataele has quite an impressive record for being one of the fastest non-established Fijian players to make it to Super Rugby. He achieved that within two years.
Yesterday, he was described as a well-balanced student. He was dedicated, his teachers said.
Mataele was deputy head boy of the school and also excelled academically.
In fact, he was an all-rounder, scooping medals in athletics and also guiding the rugby side to the semi-final of the Deans competition.
And most importantly, he listened, said Varasika Monua, the assistant principal.
His parents were also very supportive, said his former English teacher and school vice-principal Timaima Elder.
Growing up in the tough neighbourhood of Raiwai, he naturally faced the same issues other teenagers his age faced then.
His guiding light though was his discipline.
It carried him through to the Fiji Under-18 side for the Tri-Nations against Australia and New Zealand where he was spotted and joined the Taranaki Rugby Academy.
The rest, as they say, is history.
His parents yesterday spoke of how they attended all his games right from under-9s.
Mataele's story is one filled with commitment, determination and discipline.
It brims with support and a very solid base.
Perhaps a factor that would also have to be raised onto the highest pedestal is his belief in his ability, and self-confidence.
They form part of the foundation for aspiring young men and women in any career field.
Perhaps we can all learn something from this story about the human spirit, and how a lot of factors can combine to nurture something positive.
Whatever team you choose to support tomorrow, we hope you will be inspired by a young man, who was a relatively unknown boy from the neighbourhood, who is now plying his trade in the highest levels of Super Rugby.
The Chiefs and Crusaders clash at 7:30pm at the national stadium tomorrow.Home | Top