Reigning Titans player of the year Moeaki Fotuaika has declared he is “100 per cent” fit and ready to tango with a monster Cowboys pack led by behemoth Jason Taumalolo in the Gold Coast’s season re-starter against North Queensland at Townville’s QCB Stadium next Friday.
The Titans learned their path to this year’s final series yesterday with the release of the post-coronavirus NRL draw, and there is no question the footy gods took more kindly to the Gold Coast the second time around compared to the original 2020 schedule.
Next Friday’s clash with the Cowboys and a Round 5 showdown with the Rabbitohs in Sydney are the only times the Titans will need to step onto a plane for the next two months, with the bulk of their games to be played at their new, temporary home at Suncorp Stadium.
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Clashes with the Cowboys, Tigers, Rabbitohs, Dragons, Broncos, Sharks and Warriors present a far more palatable entrée to the season than the original draw, which had the Titans squaring off against six top-eight teams from 2019 in the first six weeks.
For now though, the Titans’ focus extends no further than seven days and an engagement with the Cowboys as Gold Coast hunt desperately for their first points of 2020.
Fotuaika made his return from off-season surgery to his knee and wrist against the Eels in Round 2, but the extra lay-off due to COVID-19 restrictions has given him the time to fine-tune his conditioning to ensure he is ready to go if given the green light against the Cowboys.
“It was sad that we had to have the couple of weeks off because of the virus, but it definitely helped me a lot,” Fotuaika said. “It just gave me the chance to get my body right.
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“Now that we are back, it has been a lot better for me. I have been able to join in the wrestling sessions and that, as well as full training with the full squad.
“It was good to have this little stint of pre-season, because I didn’t really get to do the running and wrestling (during the January pre-season).
“This three-week block has really given me the confidence knowing I have the kilometres and wrestling behind me and done.
“My knee is 100 percent now. The break did me a world of good. I am just excited about playing with my body at 100 per cent now.”
Fotuaika cleared another selection hurdle on Tuesday night when he was cleared by the NRL judiciary after being cited for a tackle on Eels half Mitchell Moses.
Represented by Titans Football Manager Anthony Laffranchi and culture chief Mal Meninga, Fotuaika was exonerated and cleared of a one-match suspension. The baby-faced prime mover admits it doesn’t hurt having an Immortal pleading your case at the judiciary.
“It was great having those two guys in my corner – especially having Mal as my representative in the video chat,” he said. “He really supported me well, and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
The next challenge for Fotuaika is cracking a spot in a Titans pack that is suddenly running deep with talent.
While club captain Ryan James remains sidelined with his knee injury, Fotuaika joins Kevin Proctor, Jai Arrow, Jarrod Wallace, Shannon Boyd, Bryce Cartwright, Jaimin Jolliffe, Keegan Hipgrave, Beau Fermor, Jai Whitbread, Darius Farmer and Sam Lisone in the race for a jersey next Friday.
And with Holbrook forewarning of a shake-up of his halves and backline for the Cowboys game after two disappointing losses to start the year, the Super League premiership coach won’t be afraid of overhauling his pack as well.