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Teuila Fotu-Moala has been named the women's rugby league player of the year.

When Darren Lockyer nicknamed Kiwi Ferns forward Teuila Fotu-Moala the "Jukebox", because "the hits just keep on coming", in commentary two years ago it created a certain amount of pressure and expectation.

The New Zealand forward and defensive dynamo has certainly lived up to that and more after being named the Women's World Cup player of the tournament.

"I love Darren Lockyer. He's one of my favourites," she said of the memorable nickname. 

"For him to actually give me a nickname was real cool. But then there was the pressure of putting hits out. If it happens, it happens."

It happens all right. When Fotu-Moala hits, they stay hit, but behind the menacing presence on the field is a gentle soul.

The aggression on the playing arena does have a story attached to it.

"I'm a real softie," Fotu-Moala said.

"I am not as scary as I look on the field but [the aggression] came from my brother.

"I only have one brother and when he'd walk past he'd put his shoulder into me, so I started giving it back to him.

"I got used to it and I put it on the field, so all credit to my brother for smashing me around the house."

Fotu-Moala is not a one-dimensional player. So far in the tournament she is third overall for run metres and line-break assists, fifth for tackle breaks, second for post-contact metres and sixth for line-engaged runs.

She realised when her statistics were read out at the award presentation that she needed to continue to fire in the final against Australia on Saturday.

"It is a massive World Cup and quite competitive this time around, so I am honoured," she said of the award.

"Now there is a little bit of pressure on me because there will be more eyes on me and people will think 'okay, she is the girl of the tournament, let's see what she's got'.

"But I guess I just have to prove myself. I'm real passionate about this team. They'll have my back any time of the day.

"I just have to make sure I do my work on the field. I don't want to be a liability, so I do my best."

Fotu-Moala said her family was now supportive of her career but it took them a while to embrace her decision to pursue rugby league.

"At the start of my journey they weren't that supportive because it wasn't [considered] feminine to be out of the house and training at night," she said.

"Later on, as I made the Kiwis, they started being supportive and pushing me to do the best I could." 

The Ferns star said she also had to convince her devout family to let her play on Sunday.

"But I would keep sneaking out of the house and going anyway," she said.

"You were supposed to be at church but I would rebel… and kept playing.

"When they saw I was doing well they just let me go because they got tired of saying no."

Fotu-Moala didn't play in the 2013 World Cup final loss to Australia, but she thinks about it a lot and how sweet revenge would be.

"I was heartbroken too when we lost," she said.

"For the last four years I have been trying to get into the World Cup team.

"I wake up [at night] and think how awesome it would be to help the Kiwis bring the cup back home. It would be awesome. I think about it all the time."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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