The legs, tree trunks. The hair, unmistakeable. The wind up and collision, trademark.
In the rugby league world, Fuifui Moimoi is unmistakable. To call him a cult hero would be a disservice.
201 games in the NRL, playing as a prop at a height of six feet, with a style that cast aside any form of self preservation, nets him legend status.
Fuifui made his NRL debut for Parramatta 18 years ago, and from the moment he pulled on the blue and gold, fans were enamoured.
In the 10 metre era, no prop, before or since has wound up like the Tongan wrecking ball.
You’ll get the odd wind up here and there, usually off a kick off or line drop out, but no one is running almost flat out by the time they get the ball and then careening into a set defensive line.
It’s unlikely we will see another prop take the same approach to hitting the ball up.
The game has evolved past the point of props being used solely as battering rams. Their runs are more choreographed, designed to move their team to a certain part of the field, or being used as a ball player.
Fuifui was an unapologetic cannon ball. A prop that had “Try and stop me” written down the front of his jersey.
He was all legs pumping, eyes bulging, forearms bracing as he produced the force of a small truck smashing into a brick wall every carry.
He’d play pinball with defenders, absorbing the hit from one, bouncing into another and continuing to truck the ball forward.
But why am I writing this like his career is over?
Fuifui Moimoi retired from the NRL in 2014, but he didn’t retire from rugby league.
He moved to Leigh Centurions in 2015-16 in England’s second tier, then headed to the Toronto Wolfpack, followed by Workington Town and is still plying his trade for the Rochdale Hornets.
And those trademark runs are still there. Just ask the Keighley Cougars who faced Moimoi in the 2021 season, with the Tongan running over two defenders to score.
At 41 Moimoi is well past the bright lights of the NRL, but when most players are into their retirement, rugby league is still his job.
It’s rare that props get fans on the edge of their seat. They’re the workhorses, the Clydesdales of the rugby league world, pulling the weight so their more illustrious teammates can do their thing.
They probably pay for it the most in terms of bodily damage. The human body isn’t designed to experience 50 to 60 small car crashes every week for years on end.
Memorable props are a rare breed. How many players say they wanted to be a prop when they were growing up?
Fuifui made it cool to be a prop.
You can keep your Darren Lockyer drifting cross field, your Brad Fittler sidestep, your Johnathan Thurston show and go.
Give me the full pace wind up and sweat spraying collision of Fuifui any day.
He is the hostile fast bowling spell of the rugby league world.
He’s Curtly Ambrose being told by Dean Jones to remove his sweat bands. He’s Mitchell Johnson in the 2013/14 Ashes. He’s Dennis Lillee at the WACA of old.
Except Fuifui was like that every game, every run.
Legs pumping, hair bouncing, defenders skittling.
The crowd yelling “FUUUUUIIIIIII” as they saw him prepare for every charge.
Every run, the equivalent of a short ball delivered at a batter’s armpit.
In 2009 when Jarryd Hayne received many of the deserved plaudits, his exploits came off the back of a man who was almost impossible to tackle.
Fuifui raised the volume and electricity in every stadium with every run.
He proved how unstoppable he was in the 2009 grand final when he scored from 22 metres out, running through four defenders.
The roof nearly blew off ANZ Stadium when the video referee flashed TRY onto the scoreboard.
The tank-like Tongan has highlights reels of runs, leaving his mark, quite literally, on defenders.
It’s hard to see another prop coming along who can do what Fuifui did for as long as he did it.
He enraptured audiences, drew fans into contests and entertained like only he could.
Perhaps his allure came because fans looked in awe at him and simply thought,
“There’s no way I could do that.”
Because there are lies we often tell ourselves when watching rugby league, like somehow our experience playing junior footy means with the right amount of training, we’d be able to be out there.
Only to then watch a human cannon ball hurl his 110kg frame into three giants and skittle them. We then slink slightly down in our seat where it is much safer.
Plenty more cult heroes will come and go. Parramatta itself has already witnessed the Semi-trailer.
But there is no more unique cult hero than Fuifui Moimoi. Many cult heroes become so because of a defining physical feature.
Mark Tookey’s barrel-shaped waist was useful in dealing with defenders but added to his cult status.
David “Wolfman” Williams, achieved his cult status for both his try scoring exploits and, well, the fact his nickname was “Wolfman”.
Unlike them, it was Fuifui’s never backdown nature and complete commitment to his job as human battering ram that endeared him to crowds.
It was almost like the “FUUUIIII” cry meant he could never take a hit-up off. He could never take it easy when hitting the line because then he’d be letting down the fans, robbing them of a little atmosphere and entertainment.
Moimoi won’t be in NRL teams of the decade, he never collected a Dally M award even when he won RLIF prop of the year in 2009.
Most fans will remember the charges and the hair, but not the fact that in a seven year period he played in nearly every single club game available.
When all is said and done, when the human wrecking ball finally retires, there will be those of us who remember the fire and the fury Fuifui brought to the NRL for a decade.
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