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ON THE MOV: Heti Kafoa makes some ground for Hervey bay at the Salter Oval A Grade game in Bundaberg.

At first glance, Hedi-Moani Kafoa appears your average run-of-the-mill prop. A big kid whose carries ooze venom, he hits hard and loves every minute of it.

Then you realise he's doing it all with one hand and that his story is anything but typical.

Eighteen-year-old Kafoa, or “one-hand Superman” to his friends and team-mates, was born without a right hand. 

He still doesn't know the exact details around why or what the condition is called, and he doesn't seem to care. It's always been his reality and he just wants to get on with the job.

“I never doubt myself. Once you have that doubt then you will never be the same,” Kafoa tells

“My mum said there was no difference between me and another person and to just go hard. My dad was worried about it when I first started playing footy, he didn't think it was a good idea, but my mum loved it and supported it 100%.”

Born in Auckland and raised on the same southern streets as current NRL Telstra Premiership stars Jason Taumalolo and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; Kafoa now plays for the Hervey Bay Seagulls in Queensland.

He has his eyes set on advancing to Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup within the next two years, and despite having plenty of potential excuses for why it might not happen, he says he won't allow them to become reasons. 

A member of the Otahuhu College team that won the New Zealand secondary school title in 2015, Kafoa has been crushing opponents and stereotypes for years, adapting his technique to minimise any disadvantage that comes with having one hand.

“I have five brothers, so growing up I have had to be pretty competitive,” Kafoa says.

“There's a few things I have to do. To get a quick play the ball I have to make sure the ball is in the correct hand, if I go down and the ball is in my right arm then I would have to switch it.

“I pretty much took the fend out of my game and I have just been using my body to try and get quick play the balls.

“Defence is the biggest part of the game, if you are real good in defence you can go a long way. I don't know if I defend differently actually, I haven't noticed, I just try and dig my shoulder in and then wrap.

“If I can I try and tackle more with my left than my right, that's the only real thing.

“I have had to work on my pass a lot, and I am still working on it now, that's the stuff I would work on a lot when I was little, staying up late practicing with my cousins and my brothers.

“It helps being a prop, I just take the ball forward.”

In the past 12 months, Kafoa has dropped 22kg to sit at his lightest playing weight of 117kg, and incredibly now plays between 70 and 80 minutes most weeks.

My mum said there was no difference between me and another person and to just go hard.

Former Holden Cup winning Junior Warriors coach John Ackland, who had Kafoa in his Otahuhu Leopards squad during the pre-season this year, said the teen's progress comes as no shock.

“I'm not surprised, because playing with one hand is all he knows, we have seen kids before with the same thing and they can throw beautiful spiral passes and everything,” Ackland says.

“People learn to deal with that stuff; that's the triumph of the human spirit.

“He can run quickly and has fashioned a pretty cool way to play for himself. He knows which side of the field to play on, has found a way to catch the ball, and he does it all with a big smile on his face and clearly enjoys every minute.”

While Kafoa considers himself to be just like any other footy player, he is also aware of the fact that he can serve as an inspiration to others with physical disabilities, and embraces opportunities to talk about it.

“It never crosses my mind about being a role model for that stuff until people come and say it to me,” Kafoa says.

“I don't think I am a role model at the moment … maybe when I make the NRL!

“By far the biggest thing I get after every game is people coming up to me and talking to me about it. I am always happy with that respect and I am happy that people are glad to see me playing rugby league.

“People come to me with some real good stories, stuff like how I have inspired their nephew or family member to get out there and play rugby league.

“Opponents don't care, they just try and smash me, which I am happy with. That's how everyone earns respect on the league field anyway.

“I never get sick of talking about it or whatever. I am just glad to share it.”

*This first appeared on

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