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Maroons prop Moe Fotuaika has revealed how he had to cut short a 'babymoon' in Byron Bay after being recalled for Origin II at Suncorp Stadium.

Fotuaika, who made four Origin appearances for Queensland in 2020 and 2021, was enjoying time away with his pregnant partner, Vanessa Cox, during the Titans bye week when he received a phone call from Maroons coach Billy Slater.  

“I was actually alongside my partner when I got the call and Billy spoke to us both and just said he's got some good news, and said that I'll be playing Wednesday night,” Fotuaika said.

“I was just over the moon and as soon as I hung up, I started cheering."

Mo Fotuaika has been recalled after last playing for the Maroons in 2021
Mo Fotuaika has been recalled after last playing for the Maroons in 2021 ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

However, the couple, who are expecting a baby in September, had to re-arrange their plans and leave Byron early so Fotuaika could join the Maroons camp to begin preparing for next Wednesday night's Origin.

“When Billy called me, we actually had just got back from dinner in Byron," he said.

"We went down on Saturday and … then we had to come back on Monday morning and I had to pack, so yeah, definitely I had to wake up a lot earlier than what I'd like, but it's definitely good to be back in camp.”

Fotuaika, who has been one of the most consistent forwards for the Titans all season, was rewarded for his efforts when Slater chose him ahead of Raiders firebrand Corey Horsburgh, who is 19th man. 

“I did want to be back in this arena and getting the call on Sunday night, I was definitely over the moon,” Fotuaika said.

 Mo Fotuaika with the ball for the Gold Coast Titans.
Mo Fotuaika with the ball for the Gold Coast Titans. ©NRL Images

“It's good to see the hard work that I've done during the pre-season and then throughout this year, it's all paying off by being named back in the in the squad.

“I am just proud knowing that it's all come off, so definitely happy to be back here.”

While Fotuaika might not say all that much – preferring to let his football do the talking – he also has plenty of friends and teammates who are happy to talk him up.

Titans coach Justin Holbrook and captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui have been full of praise for his hard work all season, while fullback AJ Brimson, who has joined him in the Maroons squad, had a social media campaign supporting his friend.

However, for Fotuaika, his inclusion has come after setting an internal goal to focus on bettering himself, telling earlier this season that he wanted to “prove not to anyone else but to myself that I can play better”.

It is also a reflection on his devotion to his family, who have supported him throughout his career.

Gallery of Moe-ments: Fotuaika reflects on 100 NRL games

The Tonga international, who played at last year's World Cup, has a baby on the way with his partner, which is bringing a new level of joy to his life.

He is also playing to honour the memory of his older brother Mosese, who took his life 10 years ago.

“My brother passed away in 2013 and he didn't get the chance to live his NRL dream out and then for me to luckily get the chance to make my debut in 2018 … I've finished his dream off, playing in the NRL,” Fotuaika said.

“I think the thing for me now is just to make him happy because I definitely know he'll be happy right now and as well as making him happy, my family too.

“Obviously, it was tough for myself, I think I was 13 or 14 at the time, I was still in high school (when Mosese passed).

“You're still young, you don't really know the full story, the full things about what happened.

“But then, I think it was more so tough for my mum and my dad, losing their oldest boy and seeing them … it was definitely a lot harder for me seeing them go through it all and I think that gave me the drive to make them happy and to make the NRL I guess.

Mo Fotuaika in Origin camp in 2021.
Mo Fotuaika in Origin camp in 2021. ©Scott Davis / NRL Images

“For sure, it made me determined … that gave me more determination to make them proud.

“Hopefully I have done that, playing in the NRL and being back in this position.”

Named to come off the bench for the Suncorp Stadium match, Fotuaika said he’d work to bring energy to his runs and try an emulate the work of past Origin greats.

“(I will) just try and bring energy off the bench and then just bring aggression with and without the ball in defence and just try to do my job with the ball as well, to just trying to support the boys,” Fotuaika said.

“If I get a carry, just do my best to try and run hard as I can.

“Having played before, I’ll definitely know what to expect but, I can't say that I won't be nervous, because I'll definitely still be nervous.

“But I think once I get out there, you sort of just get into the game and you don't really worry about the nerves and that kind of thing.

“I [looked up to] the likes of like Shane Webcke, Petero Civoniceva and all those type of players.

“They just do their job for the team, they're all the big ones in the middle, trying to get the boys on the front foot.”

Main image via Erick Lucero / QRL

*If you or anyone else is struggling with mental health, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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