New Knight Moga to build on breakout season
Tautau Moga wants to bring the rage to the new-look Newcastle Knights back line after rejuvenating his career last season under Wayne Bennett at the Brisbane Broncos.
On the outer at the North Queensland Cowboys entering the 2017 Telstra Premiership on the back of a third season-ending knee injury, Moga had played 31 games since making his NRL debut in 2012.
Once dubbed "the next Israel Folau" – a tag he disliked – the 24-year-old linked with the Broncos and went on to play all 27 games as Bennett's men reached the preliminary final, almost doubling his career experience.
Asked if he feared no club would have gone near him if Bennett didn't offer him a lifeline, he conceded he was at a career crossroads before the master coach came calling.
"Pretty much, I would put it that way," Moga told NRL.com.
"Given my injuries and where I was at, not many other clubs were interested.
"Wayne giving me the opportunity to play again in first grade … I will always be thankful. I'm not sure where I would be if it wasn't for this year."
Moga said there were nerves telling Bennett he was moving to the Hunter following a breakout season four years in the making that included nine tries, 84 tackle breaks and 26 offloads, according to NRL.com Stats.
The Springfield Panthers junior was born in Ipswich and has family in Brisbane but the opportunity to cement his future on a long-term lucrative offer was enough to entice him to move away from home again.
"It was tough, I just told them I wanted to start something new," Moga said.
"I said to Wayne thanks for the opportunity and he took it pretty good. He understood I needed to secure my future and the Knights were willing to offer that.
"I'm happier I've settled it for my family. That was the big thing, looking after my partner and little one."
The quietly spoken centre admitted he's not the life of a party and would rather stay out of the media spotlight, but declared he has found another aspect to his game following his stint in the Broncos – a more aggressive on-field approach.
"Off the field I'm quiet around the boys, but once I'm on the field there's a whole different side of me," he said.
"It's game time, there's just rage."
So, what about sledging?
"Nah, no sledging," he smiled.
"Just play the game. I just want to compete on everything. I'm still young myself and learning the game."
Moga is well aware the departure of Australian representative Dane Gagai to the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Peter Mata'utia to the Leigh Centurions has left the Knights scrambling for depth in the outside backs.
He played on the Broncos' left edge but can shift to the right side if required as Knights coach Nathan Brown ponders the option of moving Sione Mata'utia back into the centres over the pre-season as further cover.
"I can play a bit of both. If I play on the left again it will good to have Rossdog (winger Nathan Ross) outside of me. If we can get our defence down pat it should work well," Moga said.
"The squad here is quality and I'm confident of slotting straight in."
Moga is limited to no contact over the summer following shoulder surgery but remains hopeful of being fit for round one when Newcastle host the Manly Sea Eagles.