Quiet achiever Leota living the dream
Panthers forward Moses Leota was shocked when approached for an interview this week – it was his first in over six months, and that's exactly how he likes it.
While the limelight has surrounded Holden Cup graduates Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards and Tyrone May throughout the 2017 season, Leota edged the trio to take out player of the year for the club's under-20s side two years ago.
The 22-year-old arrived with the Penrith squad for a media session on Wednesday but along with Kiwi international James Fisher-Harris assumed neither would be required.
The prop is only averaging 20 minutes per game and managed just nine appearances in Anthony Griffin's side this season.
But go in-depth with Leota and you find he's living a dream most players on the cusp miss out on doing throughout their career.
"I didn't think I was going to get a gig, no one usually wants to talk to me," Leota told NRL.com.
"I'm one of those quiet achievers, no one recognises me except my mates and people from Mt Druitt that know a bit about me.
"I prefer that and watching all the boys in the background. When their fans (the media) come pay them a visit, I just leave them be."
The Samoan native admits he hasn't had it as easy as others, forced to work in-between football commitments to make ends meet.
"It was hard work but doing little things got me to where I am now," he said.
"I was a brick labourer for two years and was struggling between that and footy in the under-20s. It was hard for me to juggle.
"I would start at seven in the morning, finish at three and head to training after, sometimes with concrete all over me in my work clothes.
"But I'm just a hard worker, I've never had the talent but have always thought if I work hard I can still beat everyone else."
Leota was required to do a job on the Sea Eagles last week after fellow front-rower Tim Browne was a late scratching through injury.
Not even the young prop could believe what he did next.
Not known for his attacking skill, the St Mary's junior provided a late offload – his first of the season – for teammate Bryce Cartwright to help set up a four-pointer.
"I've been feeling confident and Carty called for it. I was surprised I even gave a good ball," Leota said.
"It was the best day of my life. I just give a task everything I've got. If I stay humble, that's how to get the best out of me."