Kiwi Ferns superstar Teuila Fotu-Moala is planning to make up for lost time at the World Cup 9s after the heartache of a season-ending suspension with St George Illawarra she hopes will force changes to the judiciary system for next year’s NRWL competition.
Fotu-Moala, who was the 2017 World Cup player of the tournament, broke down after leaving the NRL judiciary hearing where she received a three-match ban for a crusher tackle on Brisbane hooker Lavinia Gould and has not spoken publicly until now about the decision.
With the NRLW comprising of just three rounds and a grand final, Fotu-Moala was effectively banned for 75 per cent of the season and needed the Dragons to reach the premiership decider for her to be able to play for New Zealand.
“Being back in camp and being able to play some footy feels so good,” Fotu-Moala said. “I just love playing footy - 9s, touch, tag or any footy. I really missed it and I felt like I was out of touch for a bit.”
The 25-year-old forward was thankful for the support she received from the club, her family and team-mates and did virtually everything except play, with dressing room vision after the Dragons qualified for the grand final by beating Sydney Roosters showing her belting out the team song.
However, Fotu-Moala said it had been difficult knowing she would not be able to play in the grand final and the Dragons missed her power and strength in the middle as they succumbed 30-6 to the Broncos.
“I trusted that the girls were going to do the job and I was just there to cheer them on,” she said. “As a club we always wanted to get one up on the Roosters and they did it without me so that was sweet. I just left it all out in that chant. That was what I could do. I was in there just to give moral support to the girls.
“In the week leading up to the grand final, it was really hard to accept that I wasn’t going to take the field.
"I thought I was going to get a downgrade [at the judiciary] and hope that our team makes it through to the grand final but unfortunately I was out for the whole season.
“I was pretty gutted after the judiciary. It was a really tough time for me, I kind of broke down because everything just sank in and I was looking forward to the season.”
Fotu-Moala said the penalty was too harsh for an incident that has been widely acknowledged as an accident, given the length of the NRLW season compared to the NRL, which comprises of 25 rounds and a finals series.
“If anyone knows me they know that I am a cuddler. I love hugs,” she said. “All the captains of the other teams approached me and said it is unfair. Maybe it could have been one game, not 75 per cent of the season.
“Apparently I am the first [NRLW judiciary case] and I hope it has opened their eyes to see that it is not the same as the men. They took 75 per cent of my season off me and they would never do that in the NRL for the same thing so there is not consistency there.
“Now that it has happened I think they are going to be more aware of it.”
Fotu-Moala said it had been tough watching the grand final because she felt she “could probably help them” but the powerhouse second-rower is grateful that the Dragons qualified for the decider so she was eligible for the Kiwi Ferns.
“I just want to get out there now, I have got a lot to prove to myself because I know I can play safe,” she said.
“I think what I will offer in Nines is more physicality and I will try to get good ruck speed and some offloads.”
For ticket and travel packages for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, head to nrl.com/tickets.