Teenage Titans prop Moeaki Fotuaika has vowed to fight through the pain of a fractured wrist to help Gold Coast turn their season around, starting Friday night against the Sea Eagles at Lottoland.
With two former Titans in Kane Elgey and Morgan Boyle in the Manly line-up and former coach John Cartwright now serving as Des Hasler’s assistant, there promises to be extra feeling in a clash between two teams in vastly different positions on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
A bolstered playing roster had many experts predicting finals football for the Titans, while a Sea Eagles side decimated by injuries to key players continues to confound the critics, their latest scalp Cronulla to move up to fifth.
Originally named in the starting side to face the Bulldogs last Saturday, Fotuaika was shifted back to the bench prior to kick-off, amassing 111 metres in just 31 minutes of action. He is averaging 99.3m per game with a total of 12 tackle breaks.
Much to the delight of his teammates, the hard-hitting 19-year-old is on restricted duties that prevents him from participating in full contact sessions during the week, all to make sure he can manage the fracture in his wrist and make it onto the field each week.
"One of my bones in my wrist is pretty much broken but I'll be right to play every week. I've just got to make sure that I take care of it during the week,” Fotuaika said.
"Just want to take care of it and make sure I'm not doing contact so I'm ready for the weekend.
"Now and then [it hurts] but it's pretty good. Once I get into the game and the adrenaline kicks in then I'm pretty much sweet after that.
"I wear a cast on it throughout the whole day which keeps my bones stable and my wrist doesn't move around too much.”
Week by week the injury improves marginally to the point where Fotuaika remains hopeful that he will be able to avoid surgery at the end of the year.
"At the moment it's healing up pretty good,” Fotuaika told NRL.com.
“Every week it's getting a bit better and hopefully it keeps getting better so I don't have to get surgery."
Fotuaika will play his 25th NRL game for the Titans on Friday, a remarkable feat in itself given 18 months ago he was an unknown hoping to impress in a train-and-trial deal.
Throwing around seasoned first graders in pre-season wrestling-drills just days after his 18th birthday convinced incoming coach Garth Brennan to offer him a four-year deal, a deal that gave him the peace of mind to commit himself to his rugby league career.
"It meant that I had a future here at the club,” Fotuaika said of the lengthy contract.
"It was a big turnaround. From turning up to a trial and trying to impress the coaching staff and going into a four-year contract, I couldn't believe it. That's what hard work gets you at the end.
"I could go and just focus on my footy and not worry about my future. It's pretty much done and settled.
"It's pretty long but at the same time it just made me really focus on my footy a lot more and I'm forever grateful to the club for giving me that opportunity.
"I'm just blessed that I stayed in there and was able to come out the other end.”