The recuperative powers of a 19-year-old will determine whether Titans prop Moeaki Fotuaika makes his Test debut for Tonga in a busy representative schedule at the end of the Telstra Premiership.
Fotuaika’s continued development in the Gold Coast pack has been one of few positives for the Titans in 2019, battling through the majority of the season with a fracture in his right wrist.
He will have a screw inserted to hold the bone in place following the round-25 clash with the Dragons and he will then be in a race against time to be available for Tonga’s representative campaign.
Tonga will be represented in the inaugural Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s in Sydney on October 18-19 and then have high-profile Tests against Great Britain on October 26 and the Kangaroos on November 2.
He also has a tear in his meniscus which needs surgery and a three-month rehabilitation period but the player and club will wait until Tonga's matches if he's selected before going under the knife to fix his knee.
Fotuaika was a late withdrawal from the Tongan squad that played the Kiwis in June and admits his availability at the end of the season will depend on how quickly his wrist recovers.
"When the season's over I'll get surgery and hopefully it goes well,” Fotuaika told NRL.com.
"I don’t know exactly what has to get done but last time they said they'd have to put a screw in to hold my bone stable and then it will be four weeks recovery for it to heal up. Hopefully it's good by then.
"The game's a bit of time away, late October I think. Things can happen with surgery, sometimes it gets an infection, so I'll just have to see how the body pulls up.
"If I'm fit and healthy to play Tonga by then, I'll be happy to put my hand up but at the moment I'm just focused on getting a couple of wins for the Titans."
With a second wooden spoon almost guaranteed to be heading the Titans’ way, Fotuaika is using the disappointment of missing the mid-year Tongan camp to finish off the year as strongly as possible.
His 872 post-contact metres are the most at the Titans this season and he is second behind Jarrod Wallace for total run metres, averaging 144.4 metres per game in his past 15 appearances.
"It was pretty disappointing but that's what drives me to play good footy and keep training hard, to hopefully get the opportunity to get named or get the opportunity to go into camp with the Tongan boys," Fotuaika said of missing the mid-year Test.
"All the boys are pretty motivated in training sessions. Our season hasn't gone too well and we're just trying to get motivation throughout the week in our training to make sure that we get the job done on the weekend.
"I don't really have to find too much motivation; the boys give me motivation to play hard out on the field."
Fotuaika’s performances may have gone unnoticed by many within the game given the Titans’ status at the foot of the ladder but teammates such as Kevin Proctor value greatly what he brings at training and on game day.
"All the boys get confidence from training with him week in week out," Proctor said.
"He's a quiet kind of kid who works really hard at training. I know all the boys love playing with him, including myself, and he's only going to get better.
"It probably doesn't help when we're coming last so he probably has gone under the radar a little bit.
"But to us boys we know what he does every week so that's all that matters."