Titans unleash their own Tongan tearaway
Titans coach Garth Brennan has challenged tearaway forward Moeaki Fotuaika to embrace the challenge against North Queensland's all-star pack on Saturday night.
Fotuaika will start in the front row when the Titans play their first pre-season trial against the Cowboys at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Brennan has tipped the Tongan teenager to hit another level this season and Fotuaika gets a chance to start his 2019 campaign against arguably the NRL's best middle forwards.
Cowboys coach Paul Green will roll out Test trio Matt Scott, Jordan McLean and Jason Taumalolo in the trial, giving the understrength Titans a solid test.
At only 19, Fotuaika is far from the finished product, but he is so highly-rated by the Titans that Brennan has urged him to rip into the Cowboys' big guns.
"The young guys are excited to come up against the likes of Matt Scott, who has been the best front rower in the game for a while," he said.
"Taumalolo is probably the most damaging player in the game at the moment.
"It's exciting to test themselves against that sort of quality.
"Moe Fotuaika is the big one. He is Tongan and I know he looks up to Jason Taumalolo.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him get out there. I know he's going to be excited and nervous.
"I'm really excited with what he could develop into. Some of the contact he is doing in sessions is scary for a kid his age.
"The boys really respect him and like him."
Fotuaika played 16 games last year in his debut NRL season, with only two starting appearances in the front row.
He is in line for spot on the Gold Coast's bench in Round 1, but can prove to Brennan he is up for anything by confronting the Cowboys with a powerful performance.
Brennan is full of optimism entering his second season as head coach of the Titans.
He believes his squad is better prepared than they were last year and that will give them confidence.
"They've put a lot of hard work in and trained as hard as I've seen an NRL team train," he said.
"If players take shortcuts at training they know deep down they haven't done the work and tend to look for shortcuts throughout the whole year.
"This year no player has taken any shortcuts. Hopefully that will give them confidence.
"It's important we put in a good performance and take some confidence out of it."
Titans big guns Ash Taylor (shoulder) and Ryan James (knee) are not fit to play Saturday, while Brennan has rested the likes of Jarrod Wallace, Shannon Boyd, Kevin Proctor, Nathan Peats and Michael Gordon.
The Titans will play their final trial before the NRL season against the Broncos at Cbus Super Stadium next Saturday.