Family-first approach lands Fonua at Wests Tigers
"How on earth are we going to replace Mahe Fonua?"
"Best winger I have ever seen at Hull FC. Best of luck to Mahe Fonua returning home."
"Mahe Fonua is going to be a massive loss for Hull, what a player he is."
They were the glowing endorsements from fans in England after Mahe Fonua announced his departure from the Super League to return to Australia and link with the Wests Tigers in 2018.
The first Victorian-born player to represent the Melbourne Storm, Fonua's decision to move back to the NRL after the two-year stint abroad came down to one reason - family.
"My wife and I are expecting our first child," Fonua said.
"We are family-oriented people and wanted to come back to Australia so it's easier for my wife and our daughter to grow up around family. The opportunity came up with the Wests Tigers and I grabbed it with two hands."
Unlike most NRL players who venture to the Super League towards the end of their careers, Fonua has returned to Australia for what looms as the prime period of his career.
The 25-year-old Tongan international was named in the 2016 Super League dream team and starred in Hull's 18-14 Challenge Cup win over Wigan Warriors in August.
"Going over to England helped me mature as a person as well as a footy player," Fonua said.
"I was fortunate enough to play in a couple of the bigger matches in England and get a bit of silverware. I'm happy to have those accolades on my resume.
''That experience in the bigger matches can hopefully help me, if and when I take the field for the Wests Tigers."
The joint venture club has an abundance of outside backs at their disposal with Fonua no guarantee to make Ivan Cleary's 17-man squad for round one.
Fonua was in and out of the Melbourne Storm line-up three years ago under the watch of Craig Bellamy, but is keen to re-establish his career under Ivan Cleary.
A damaging and intimidating ball runner, Fonua said he hasn't taken it out on his new teammates at training as he continues to push for a round one spot.
"I'm trying to play the friendly card," Fonua smiled, sporting his gold-plated "M.F" initials on his teeth as part of his Tongan heritage.
"There have been some big wrestle sessions [but] I haven't put any hits on. I'm going to try and do the best for the team taking the tough carries.
"Wingers are like an extra prop coming out of the red zone. The Wests Tigers last year … it wasn't one of their best years but with the squad we've got this year we can do some damage. I hope to be part of it."