Rugby league pundits might have been heralding David Fifita's return to form and a potential Origin recall, but another Titans forward has also been quietly pushing his case with numbers too big to ignore.
Softly-spoken prop Moeaki Fotuaika – who played four Origin games for the Maroons in 2020 and 2021 – has stayed out of the headlines despite recent performances drawing high praise from coach Justin Holbrook.
“Tino, Dave, and big Moey, those three... since Round 1 have been playing as well as anyone can play," Holbrook said after his side's Magic Round win.
“There’s always speculation, and obviously (players) are selected for a reason, but with all the Queensland teams winning … they are going to be in a good position and it’s going to be hard to make that side. But when you are picking sides, you are picking them off what you see and tough performances.”
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While the Titans were unable to make it three wins in a row against the Knights on the weekend, Fotuaika was once again one of the best for his side with a game-high 43 tackles in defence and commendable 130 metres.
Fotuaika, who last featured for Queensland in 2021, is currently enjoying some of the best form of his career, and said while a return to the Origin arena did remain a goal, the motivation to improve was driven internally.
“I'm enjoying my footy a lot more this year, with last year not being the best footy wise. That's the driving factor for me this year – to just to have a good year this year and find confidence every game we play,” Fotuaika said.
“I am taking that into every week and just trying to play consistent good footy.
“With not having a good year last year, I felt like I let myself down as well as the team by not being at my best.
This year, I just wanted to prove not to anyone else but to myself that I can play better than what I did last year.Titans forward Moeaki Fotuaika
"It's the driving factor to just play well every game.
“I've been doing a lot of work with the assistant coaches and Justin with how we want to play defensively and in attack.
“After every game, I catch up with the assistant coaches on what I can do better in defence and attack so they help me out a lot in that technical side of things.
“It's just more myself, a lot of self motivation in wanting to play better footy.”
At this time of year, however, Origin lure was hard to avoid, and Fotuaika, who also put a vote of confidence in his teammates Fifita and Fa’asuamaleaui to earn a place, said if selected, he would relish the opportunity to soak up more of the experience.
“I think it's everyone's goal if they can play, for whoever is eligible to get picked for their Origin team, and I’m just the same,” Fotuaika said.
“I'd love to get back in that arena, but I'm just focusing on my job here at the Titans and just playing good footy and getting some wins and hopefully that can put me in good position.
“I think just missing out on selection last year and just watching back from home... I think you don't realise how much you missed something until it’s gone.
“Watching it from my house on the television, it's like ‘ohh I wish I could be back there’, so I think hopefully the next time I get back in that position, I'll just try and soak it up a bit more.”
Fotuaika will have one more chance to stake a claim for Queensland’s Game I squad this weekend when the Titans take on the Bulldogs with the Maroons set to name their side on Monday, May 22.
Match: Bulldogs v Titans
Round 12 -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney