Moses slowly proving perceptions wrong
Parramatta Eels playmaker Mitchell Moses has a love-hate relationship with the rugby league public but is not out to force anyone's opinions to change.
Moses' exit at the Wests Tigers mid-season last year proved a blessing in disguise after a smooth transition to the Eels line-up, and a strong World Cup campaign has the 23-year-old in early State of Origin contention for 2018.
NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler told NRL.com last month he had a misconceived perception towards Moses prior to coaching him in Lebanon's 2017 World Cup campaign.
"I didn't really know him before, so my perception was through the media and the way he came across through the whole Wests Tigers contract thing," Fittler told NRL.com in December.
"There was no doubt people made up their minds because the contract drama played on for so long which only makes it worse for everyone.
"But he turned out to be good company and his footy has grown since making the move."
Moses linked with Fittler for a second time in three months over the weekend as part of the NSW emerging Blues camp and grinned when told of the comments.
"Freddy's first perceptions are a lot of people's until they meet me," Moses told NRL.com.
"I try and not read into it too much. I know the people that are close to me and they know me well enough to have their respect.
"Freddy was massive for me in that camp and I grew close to him. It's very special to be mentioned and noticed in this group by him now and to be learning off all the experience and coaches."
Many onlookers believe Moses lifted to greater heights under Fittler while guiding Lebanon to a maiden quarter-final appearance with a try and four try assists in the tournament, but the former Wests Tigers pivot wasn't as convinced by his performances.
"I'm not sure, the World Cup was a different type of footy," Moses said.
"I had players that work full-time jobs and came to training after, or don't even play in NSW Cup. I think I took on a role where I was trying to teach them a fair bit and had to take control.
"I felt like I did that at times but not as much as people probably made out."
Moses returned to pre-season training in early January following annual leave and said Parramatta's straight-sets exit to finish the 2017 season remained a driving motivation for the squad to improve this year.
"I've been asked that a few times and it does, it still burns," Moses said.
"It wasn't the footy we played all year and was upsetting we turned up like that in such an important game.
"We've looked back on that and spoken about that to go a few games further this year."
One factor that could prove a point of difference is the return of prodigal son Jarryd Hayne – particularly with the loss of attacking strike weapon Semi Radradra out wide.
"I've grown up watching Jarryd and he's a very special player," Moses said.
"If we can get him firing he will be special for our team. He's been training well the last week and a bit despite a few distractions and I know he's looking forward to the year."