If there’s a silver lining to Moeaki Fotuaika being stuck on crutches for the next four weeks it’s that his mum will be around to look after him.
Most 19-year-olds would prefer to be left alone with Netflix and their Xbox after knee surgery but for the young man crowned the Gold Coast Titans’ best player in 2019 a bit of motherly love is something of a rare treat.
On a night when Preston Campbell was elevated even further in the eyes of those within rugby league and on the Gold Coast by becoming the Titans’ first Life Member, Fotuaika’s runaway win to claim the Paul Broughton Medal was equally noteworthy.
Not only did he play through the pain of a meniscus tear in his left knee and a fracture in his right wrist for the second half of the season to become the youngest winner of the club’s most prestigious award, he did it without the comfort of having his parents close by.
Fotuaika was just 16 when his mother Ilaisaane had to return to New Zealand due to visa issues, his father Penitani also forced to return to Auckland just 12 months later.
When his mother left Australia it had been just three years since the tragic death of older brother Mosese yet ‘Moe’ never contemplated joining her and his younger siblings on the plane back to New Zealand.
"Mum had to leave first and then my old man left the year after,” Fotuaika told NRL.com.
"My mum can come over for three months to visit and she's able to apply for a new visa now. So she's just waiting for that to come through and then hopefully things go good after that.
"There was no talk about us going back or anything like that. It was more for them to go back and get all that visa stuff sorted and then come back after that.
"All my younger siblings stayed in New Zealand with my parents and the older siblings stayed back here.
"It's always hard being away from your family, especially your siblings. You want to see them grow.
“They left at a pretty young age. I still get to visit them but at the same time it's different when you're together.
"It would have been good to go back with them but Australia is a great country and has a lot of opportunities to offer. I just wanted to stay.
"I had a lot of friends here too at school and I was enjoying my footy too so I just wanted to stay here.
"Once they get their visas sorted it will be good to have them back and be back together as a family.”
While his parents are in another country, Fotuaika’s family influence remains strong.
When his father left in 2017 Moe moved in with his older sister, older brother Feao, his partner Caroline and their two children Moses and Elena.
Feao dropped 16 kilograms at the end of 2018 to earn a place in the Queensland Reds’ Super Rugby squad, further inspiration for Fotuaika to build on an impressive NRL rookie season to become one of his side’s best week after week in 2019.
"I was proud of him,” Fotuaika said.
“To lose the amount of weight that he had just to get in the Reds squad and then to be able to make his debut in round one of the Super Rugby competition just goes to show how much work he put in.
"I can learn a few things off that, to sacrifice a few things now and then. I was just truly proud of him.
"Being able to lean on him, talk to him and that kind of stuff. It's good to have an older brother around.
“He's always taking care of me as well. It's always good to go back home and have family there to take care of you.
"When you have those bad days at training, you go home and you've got family, my brother and sister there to talk to. They always keep me grounded. It keeps me on track in life I guess.”
Contracted to the Titans through to the end of the 2022 season after signing an extension in August, Fotuaika has the rugby league world at his feet.
But no matter how far his star rises, he knows where he will be living when his parents ultimately return to Australia.
"I don't think my parents will let me do that,” Fotuaika said of potentially having a place of his own.
“They'll probably want me at home so I'll just stick to that before I get a back-hand.”