This broken Titan is NRL’s toughest teen
Tough Titans forward Moeaki Fotuaika has revealed the remarkable pain he pushed through to be crowned the Gold Coast's player of the year as he races the clock to be fit for the start of the 2020 season.
Fotuaika is on track to play in Titans' NRL season-opener against Canberra on March 13 after undergoing operations on wrist and knee injuries he carried for most of 2019.
The 20-year-old forward is still on restricted training, wearing a wrist brace and abstaining from contact drills, and is only an outside chance of featuring in a pre-season trial match.
But with captain Ryan James sustaining a season-ending knee injury last week, the Titans need Fotuaika on deck as soon as possible.
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Fotuaika played 21 NRL games last year, battling through painful injuries in only his second season to claim the club's Paul Broughton Medal.
The injuries have hurt his 2020 pre-season and Fotuaika said it was a struggle to push through last year as the Titans collected the wooden spoon.
"I did my wrist in round six against the Knights and I did my knee in round 10 against the Bulldogs," he said.
"The scaphoid bone in my wrist was fractured and my meniscus was torn. I carried it for pretty much the whole year.
"They told me I needed surgery eventually. I just wanted to play with it and get surgery at the end of the year.
"At times it was tough but the more I kept playing with it, the more I got used to the pain.
"I got a few needles in my knee to take away the swelling. The wrist I just had to play with, I couldn't needle it.
"It was definitely tough. I couldn't push off it or use my fend.
"When you love the game and you want to play you don't let anything get in the way."
As a teenager, Fotuaika showed incredible mental strength to push through his injuries despite the Titans winning only four of 24 games.
It would have been easy for him to throw in the towel and go under the knife in preparation for 2020, but he was rewarded for his bravery with the club's player of the year award.
The Titans need a starting front rower to partner Jarrod Wallace following James' injury, and Fotuaika is the leading candidate if he can get on the park.
Fotuaika made 11 starting appearances in 2019 after James tore his ACL and he wants to build on his 37-game career.
"It was definitely a year to look back on," he said.
"I got a lot more confidence being my second season.
"I really enjoyed my footy. Hopefully I can have another good season.
"I want to keep playing consistent footy, that's the main thing.
"If I keep training hard it will put me in a good position to have another good year.
"I need to get fitter. I still have a lot to learn about the game."
With the Titans heading for the wooden spoon and coach Garth Brennan being sacked, Fotuaika reaffirmed his commitment to the club by inking a contract extension last August to remain at the Gold Coast until at least 2022.
He has been impressed by new coach Justin Holbrook and said he didn't want to walk out on the club which gave him a shot at the NRL.
"Even though we didn't really have a good season, the young boys we have like AJ (Brimson) and Jai Whitbread made me want to stay," he said.
"The club's heading in a good direction and I want to be a part of it.
"With the new coach we've got now and a fresh start it will help us in the new season."