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3am wake-ups have Moe ready for Origin

Listen to the way his team-mates describe him and you know that Moeaki Fotuaika will be a success in the State of Origin arena.

“He will just be sticking to his routine and pretty chilled but when he gets on the field he will be a different beast,” says his Titans team-mate AJ Brimson.

“He is so quiet and such a gentle giant off the field, but when he gets on the field he is an animal,” says Jai Arrow, his former Gold Coast team-mate who will line up alongside him in game two.

“He loves the tough, gritty stuff.”

The humble front rower is widely loved by his team-mates who speak about a player who is selfless in his actions and trains harder than anyone.

Moeaki’s story began on the Gold Coast at Keebra Park State High School.

He’d leave home at 3am to catch a 4.15am train three mornings a week for the 90-minute trip to attend Keebra's gym sessions and skipping school some days, and many others during school holidays, doing 14-hour days fruit picking with his father to help the family make ends meet.

At the end of Year 12 in 2016, after playing off the bench in the shadows of Keebra's celebrated props Payne Haas and Thomas Mikaele and getting limited minutes to shine, most of his mates had already been offered NRL contracts.

Yet, despite being unwanted if not unnoticed, he made sure he celebrated his mates' good fortune and masked his own disappointment.

The story has been told about the day he turned up at a Titans' under-20s open trial, when they thought he was 17 but was actually 16, and he was the best player on the park.

What wasn't known until later was Moe was on a train at 5am to get there on time.

He played off the interchange bench in the first-round under 20 clash with Sydney Roosters. After playing 50 minutes straight, he never came off the bench again. Five times he played the whole 80 minutes in the front row.

By round eight he'd gone from unknown triallist to a Junior Kiwi. At season's end, the Titans had asked him to sign a two-year deal as a "development player" which meant training with the NRL side up to Christmas.

On his first day at training with the Titans, they did a drill they call "king of the ring", a wrestling-strength test that involves players starting on their knees and try to get their opponent on their back. The winner progresses to the next round until there are just two players left.

Few players knew who big 17-year-old was.

That wasn't the case after going through five rounds and coming up against then-skipper Ryan James to be the last man standing.

"It was our first week of training and I thought 'I can't let a 17-year-old beat me'," recalls James.

"He just wouldn't give up and did me. And that's been his attitude ever since.

Fotuaika won the Titans best and fairest, the Paul Broughton Medal, in 2019 and was runner-up in 2020.

He has quickly cemented himself as one of the rising young forwards in the game.

Fotuaika understands the Maroons' history and the calibre and style of forwards he has looked up to comes as no surprise considering the tough and no-nonsense way he plays the game.

“There are definitely a lot but the players that come to mind are definitely Petero Civoniceva, Shane Webcke, Matt Scott and those kind of players,” he said.

“They are straight forward and just do their job, run hard and get the boys forward

"If the opportunity comes I would take it with both hands and do it the best I can."

He’ll get that chance when he makes his Maroons debut in Game Two. 

Listen to his team-mates speak and you know he’ll be ready.