Teenage Titan prop Moeaki Fotuaika has been urged to use Sunday afternoon’s showdown with the Broncos to confirm his place in the Tongan squad to play New Zealand in Auckland on June 22.
In his second year in top grade, Fotuaika has continued to live up to the hype, elevating himself into the Titans starting team with consistently strong performances the past two weeks.
The 19-year-old responded by punching out 200-plus metres against both Manly and North Queensland and on Sunday faces the challenge of fronting up against former Keebra Park State High School teammates David Fifita and Payne Haas.
In almost any other year Fotuaika’s form would have warranted automatic selection in the Tongan team, and while he has been short-listed for his Test debut, Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said another big showing would go a long way towards earning a spot in the 17.
"Moe is very much in the frame," Woolf confirmed to NRL.com.
"We had to send a list of 20 players to start booking in flights and I’m happy to say that Moe is part of those 20 players.
"He's right in the mix but it is going to be a real fine line in terms of what we do.
Broncos v Titans - Round 13
"If you look at a starting pack it is very hard to go past Andrew Fifitia, Siua Taukeiaho and Jason Taumalolo. Addin Founa-Blake will certainly be in our 17 somewhere as will Tevita Pangai.
"Then when you're looking at bench options you need to weigh up whether we carry three front-rowers, which certainly brings blokes in like Moeaki, Junior Tatola and some guys who have been there before like Peni Terepo.
"Or we need to consider whether we have an edge back-rower who comes off the bench, which brings guys like Sitili [Tupouniua] in a little bit more.
"This week is a big week of footy for people. It's a last chance and I like to let players know through the week that if they go away next weekend they can probably pack your bags to come to New Zealand as well."
A Titans train-and-trialist little more than 18 months ago, Fotuaika played 16 NRL games last season and was brought into the Tongan camp as 18th man for last October's Test against the Kangaroos.
Tonga assistant coach David Tangata-Toa worked alongside Garth Brennan at the Panthers before joining the Cowboys and said he spoke to the Titans coach before inviting Fotuaika to join the group.
"Garth and I were both at Penrith together and I asked him about Moe and what type of kid he was and he rapt him up and said he was a terrific young kid,” Tangata-Toa said.
"We brought him in and he fitted in with the group really well. He's playing great footy at the moment so he's definitely in the calculations coming into this Test match."
Titans prop Jarrod Wallace has marvelled at Fotuaika’s development ever since he joined the NRL squad in pre-season two years ago, and says he will only continue to improve the more experience he gets at the highest level.
"I like playing alongside Moe. He's young, he's aggressive, and he runs hard and I know he's going to turn up for me every week," Wallace said as he prepares to face his former club on Sunday.
"If he's my inside man or I'm running by myself I always know he's going to be there and I'm the same with him.
"He had a good year last year but I think he's having an even better year this year."