Moeaki Fotuaika fends off Luke Bateman. Picture: Gold Coast Titans
Moeaki Fotuaika fends off Luke Bateman. Picture: Gold Coast Titans

Fotuaika bolts out of the Haas shadow

STEP aside Payne Haas.

The Broncos sensation has been thrust into the limelight in the past fortnight but his younger, understated version has emerged from the shadows to outdo him on NRL debut.

Moeaki Fotuaika's effort off the bench on Saturday was hailed by Gold Coast skipper Ryan James as their "only positive" in an otherwise poor 32-18 loss to Canberra.

Fotuaika hung in for 40 minutes in a badly beaten side, making 20 tackles, running 102m and setting up a late try for Max King.

The first-up Haas effort that wowed fans, by comparison, involved 13 tackles and 81 running metres across 20 minutes.

At 18, Fotuaika is a year younger than Haas, who he was stuck behind in the front-row pecking order at Keebra Park State High School.

Keebra coach Glen Campbell admitted Fotuaika's rapid rise had even taken him by surprise.

"People have obviously realised his intense work rate and the way he plays and how tough he is," Campbell said.

"All the rep stuff as a junior probably didn't come his way but he definitely held his end up because he was one of our players through 2016.

"I had three massively good props, Tom Mikaele, Payne Haas and Moeaki, and he definitely played his role, he just didn't get the accolades like the other two.

"I suppose he just didn't have the massive physical attributes of being six foot four as Tom Mikaele and Payne Haas were but he definitely never took a backward step."

Campbell said it was Fotuaika's modus operandi to fly under the radar.

"Moeaki comes from a tough Tongan family," he said.

"He was just a kid with a great work ethic. He never used to say much.

"He never got up to mischief or anything like that, he just quietly went about his business."

Moeaki Fotuaika was a standout during pre-season for the Titans.
Moeaki Fotuaika was a standout during pre-season for the Titans.

There was little fanfare about Fotuaika's debut - in stark contrast to that of Haas - after excellent form in the Intrust Super Cup for Tweed Heads propelled him to the top of the list to replace the injured Morgan Boyle.

Titans coach Garth Brennan was brimming with praise for the teenager.

"The debut from Moe was enormous," he said.

"How impressed I am with him, I sent a message out with the trainers to check on Moe and see how he is travelling and the message that came back was "I'm fine" but I look at his body language and it was different.

"But there is no way that he wanted to come off … I was really hoping that he would score that try at the end because I thought he really deserved it."

Gold Coast's fourth straight loss has dropped them into the bottom four ahead of a Round 10 clash with Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium.