Moimoi to crack the double-century
Eels veteran Ben Smith has described Fuifui Moimoi's impact on the team this year just as critical as co-captain Jarryd Hayne, despite playing just 10 games.
When Moimoi runs out for his 11th game in 2014, it'll also bring up his 200-game milestone – a record that didn't look like happening when he got dropped to the NSW Cup in Round 9.
But after being recalled by coach Brad Arthur in Round 18, the second-oldest player in the NRL will now gets the chance to notch his double century against the Sharks on Saturday night.
"To get where he as gotten to, in a position that he's played his whole career, it's a massive achievement," Smith told NRL.com.
"Not too many people get to play a season of first grade or a game, so for him to get to 11 years at Parramatta in first grade... is a massive accolade and a massive achievement.
"I take my hat off to him because the game's evolved so much in this period and for him to evolve with it, as a front-rower, massive big-ups to him for it."
While Moimoi's on-field role has diminished this season – his run of seven straight seasons of 20-plus games is almost certain to end this year – Smith said the veteran's influence off the field on the club's promising band of Polynesian players has been just as significant as that of spearhead Jarryd Hayne.
Smith, who debuted alongside Moimoi in 2004, praised his long-time teammate for his professionalism to be ready for a recall when it had looked like his first grade career was over.
"And that's why he's stood the test of time. That's why he's been here for so long, because he knows what he needs to do each week for his body to get there," Smith said.
"And that's why, not only as an elder player within the club, but we have a lot of Polynesian boys in this club and he is a leader, probably as much as Jarryd Hayne is.
"They look up to him so much, and he realises he has a responsibility to lead by example. And that's probably why he's been given the opportunity again, and he's making the most of it."
Smith recalled when an intimidating Moimoi joined the club a decade ago and instantly became a favourite. Off-contract at the end of the year, Moimoi's future remains up in the air and should the 34-year-old hang up the boots at the end of the season, Smith said he would go down as a club icon.
"I hadn't met him yet but one of the young boys, I think he was 19, he was working at the office and he had to go on a run and pick him up at the airport," he remembered.
"And he just said, 'He did not speak the whole way from the airport back over here. He was that intimidating, you just didn't know what to do.'
"He has a bit of, almost a myth to him, Fui, where he doesn't speak English and he doesn't talk much, but get him behind closed doors where he's a bit comfortable and relaxed, you wouldn't want to have anyone else around.
"He's a character, he jokes, but he leads by example in the way he trains and the way he plays. As a club, he's up there as a cult hero along with [Nathan] Hindmarsh. He's synonymous with Parramatta in that regard. Everyone loves him, fans and players alike."