Titans rookie sets sights on Taumalolo
TITANS tyro Moeaki Fotuaika has set his sights on becoming the NRL's next Jason Taumalolo after being tipped to explode in 2019.
Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan has nominated Fotuaika as his player to watch this year following a sensational pre-season from the Tongan torpedo.
Fotuaika made 16 NRL appearances in his rookie season last year despite being only 18 and playing in the front-row furnace.
Now 19, Fotuaika has emerged from his second first grade pre-season in top shape, exciting his Titans teammates.
A product of league nursery Keebra Park on the Gold Coast, Fotuaika came through the grades idolising North Queensland's Tongan sensation Taumalolo and Rabbitohs hit-man Sam Burgess.
Taumalolo, the 2016 Dally M medallist, regularly runs for more than 200m a game and is regarded as the NRL's most destructive forward.
Fotuaika watched Taumalolo closely while in Tongan camp last year as 18th man and said he wanted to follow in the Cowboys star's footsteps.
"I looked up to Sam Burgess and Jason Taumalolo, they have a presence on the field when they are carrying the ball or tackling," Fotuaika said.
"I watched them when I was young and now to come up against them is truly a dream come true. They are great players.
"I most definitely (try to play like Taumalolo). He is the best forward in the game now.
"He's got everything, he is fast and powerful. He's a wrecking ball.
"It was scary (playing against him in a trial). Once he ran over a couple of players I didn't know what to do."
Fotuaika made two starting appearances last year and will come off the bench in Sunday's Round 1 clash against Canberra at Cbus Super Stadium.
The Titans have high hopes for Fotuaika long-term at the club, signing him on a four-year deal until 2021, and Brennan said he was one of the squad's most-liked players.
"Moe is absolutely flying, I'm really excited with what he could develop into," Brennan said.
"Some of the contact he is doing in sessions is scary for a kid his age. The boys really respect him and like him.
"He changed the tempo of our training in one session. The boys were a bit slow, Moe came out and snapped two blokes in half. The whole session changed."
At 185cm and 107kg, Fotuaika isn't the biggest middle forward in the game, especially when compared to giant Titans prop Shannon Boyd (194cm, 126kg).
But he runs with ferocity and puts everything into his defence, with impeccable timing leaving his opponents knowing they have been hit.
"That's my main focus when I come off the bench, I want to lift the boys up, whether it's through a carry or defence," he said.
"I definitely feel a lot more confident. It was my first year last year and I know what to expect this year.
"I can't wait for the season."