Masi Matongo has a rugby league journey like no other.
Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, he was a relative latecomer to the sport before impressing with amateur teams Hull Wyke, West Hull and Norland Sharks
He was signed by Hull FC in 2013, and two years later was making his Super League debut at Wigan while still studying accountancy.
Now a full-time member of Lee Radford’s squad, he added a further nine appearances off the bench in 2017, and has caught the eye in pre-season ahead of this weekend’s Super League kick-off.
Standing at over 6ft tall and weighing almost 17 stones, he has provided a physical presence that belies his 21 years, and his coach is hoping for further progress this season.
Radford said: “Masi is a big human being – you only have to stand next to him to see what his strengths are going to be.
“He’s route one, but he’s not your stereotypical front rower.
“He’s a trainee accountant, he has some IQ about him and he has some different banter about him.
“He’s very unique in his dress sense as well, and all of that makes him a likeable bloke.
“He’s fitted really well into the squad, and to back that up he’s performed unbelievably well in the pre-season friendlies and not looked out of place against some quality front rowers.
“I’m expecting big things from him this year.”
Matonga’s rise to the first team in 2015 was all the more remarkable given his relative inexperience at junior level, and Radford says his ability to learn is a key attribute.
He added: “He was picked up really late and we’re always trying to up-skill him.
“There’s still huge amounts of improvements in his game, but there is stuff that he does well and he takes everything on board.
“He’s an ultimate professional in everything he does.
“What I think he’ll benefit from is that our senior blokes were away for part of pre-season having been at the World Cup.
“We could put plenty of time and efforts into our young players, and I honestly think Masi has come on leaps and bounds.”
Daily Mirror (UK)