Teuila Fotu-Moala vs El Niche Cache

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Having spent the last few months playing for North Sydney Bears, why did you decide to play in Sydney this year instead of return to Auckland club footy?

The move to Sydney had been in the cards for some time now, not just for footy, but to get out of my comfort zone and explore the opportunities. When the opportunity came to move to Sydney, my partner and I decided to follow one our mates to North Sydney Bears which is an hour away from where we live. We attended the first training and felt that the culture was very welcoming, everybody there was keen as to learn and that’s what sold us to the club, just the fact that the team was made of genuine people and very hungry to learn.

The clubs here provide a very professional environment, it allows us to develop more and just purely focus on footy and we love that.

Explain your decision to move from Brisbane Broncos to St George Illawara Dragons...

Since I had already relocated to Sydney with my little family, I was open to the idea of playing with a Sydney club. St George ticked a lot of boxes for me in terms of personal game development. I’m very excited about this season, Daniel Lacey has definitely done his homework and has recruited so much talent - including my partner who im super excited to experience this new adventure with. Everything with the Dragons this season just felt right so I got my ink to the paper and signed my season away.

What are some things you learned about yourself or about a team from the success with the Broncos last year?

I learned so much last year. Probably the best coaching staff I’ve ever been under, the performance we put in week in and week out was definitely a credit to the abilities of our coaching staff at the Bronx last year. I hardly ever get to play second rower, only when I play for rep teams, so I developed a better understanding on my role as second rower, but specifically to the women’s game, a right side second rower which is usually the defensive side as more girls are confident with a right to left shift in their attack. Probably the best footy experience to date! We really respected and developed a huge love for one another, staff included and it showed on the field. We had strong team values and that’s what held us together and we made history.

Two notes that stand out about you are your desire for new challenges and to keep learning, as well as your involvement in the community (coaching Otahuhu etc). Are these aspects of you that come naturally or have you learn about stepping out of your comfort zone and chasing growth?

I had a 2/3 year stint playing rugby union back in NZ for Ponsonby and was lucky enough to play for Auckland Storm. These years helped me change my approach with how I went on with life and especially my footy. Rugby in NZ is very well developed and I understood what it meant to be professional and deal with the uncomfortable. Though I still prefer league as my preferred code, I credit my involvement in rugby union for the way I approach my footy. I wanted to inspire more girls to join the game, so I started coaching Otahuhu Women’s and I still plan on going back to coach once my body gives up on me. I’m always looking for opportunities to be better than I was, my parents raised me to believe that you can never be the best, the moment you think you’re the best is the moment you stop your growth and that’s been my approach with not just my footy, but with life too.

What have you been trying to improve in your game this year?

Well, conditioning and speed is always a given every year but specifically this year I’ve been putting energy towards improving my attack especially with my ball carry. In club league I’m usually in the halves or a ball playing lock and so when I have to play second row, it’s a mental shift and it takes a while for me to adjust my game because I’m so used to trying to create rather than hitting hard lines, crashing to certain points to the field and all that a rower should be doing.

Is there something that you do every practice/training session to ensure that you are prepared for games?

Yes, I do my best to fit a nap in. I love my sleep, I’ll sleep any possible time I get. It’s not so easy as a parent to get any, but we even try and plan when baby would go sleep so we can get a nap in too. It’s crazy. I feel like parenting is mainly just trying to tire your baby out so you can get some sleep!

Women's rugby league has grown rapidly, how has your role as an edge forward changed over the past year or so?

My role being an edge forward has grown towards getting those 1 percent plays right. When I first started playing in the rows, I thought it was purely about hard running and tackling even harder, but now I’ve learned that it’s so much more responsibility and if I don’t focus on those 1-percenters and get those down packed then it’ll be a hard day in the office. Now my role's about looking up and getting defensive splits right, attacking to certain points and certain people on the field, shutting down slide plays etc. It’s more responsibility out in the rows than I originally thought, but I do love the challenge of it.

What do you do or where do you go to escape in the off season?

In the off season I love travelling back home and attending summer festivals & having summer barbies with family and friends - and travelling around NZ. It’s probably the best place to spend summer.

What is the best advice you have received?

Probably one of the best advice from my mum, growing up she always said, “it’ll be hard before it gets easy”. As simple as that sounds it really resonates with me, it’s taught me resilience and hard work and when it gets too easy I find a challenge so I’m constantly growing. Growth is essential, in all things and not just league.

What do you think is the most important thing for young South Aucklanders or those with limited opportunities around Aotearoa/Pacific Islands to understand about chasing their dream?

From my own experience, I found that you’re only limited to what you’re constantly surrounded with. South Aucklanders specifically Pacific Islanders tend to stick to what they know, so they limit themselves to what they know. I guess something we can definitely start with in order to chase a dream, is that we need to be okay with being uncomfortable. Open our minds up, explore the unknown and not be afraid of putting ourselves in situations where we think 'this is too big of a mountain' for us. Our ancestors mastered voyaging and navigating without being tech savvy, we need to start believing more in ourselves and be okay with the possibility that we might trip up, but also knowing there’s growth and lessons to be learned and that it all plays a part in expanding your value as a person.

The next step for women's rugby league in Aotearoa is...

Invest in quality coaching and disperse them amongst the women’s teams. League is the best game to ever be played, so surely everyone will be interested to learn at a point in time. We grow the game and interest of the game by investing in our coaches, our coaches are the leaders of the game, players turn up to learn and get something out of every training. If players aren’t getting that, your numbers at trainings drop, interest in playing drops. Women’s rugby league is taking off and we gotta jump on that and nurture the amazing talent back home, cause in my opinion, NZ has the most talented footy players and we need to invest in that by having quality leaders that can nurture and develop that especially right from the start - grassroots level.

Who would you like to give thanks to?

I’m a spiritual person who gives every thanks to my Heavenly Father. For everything I have, I am most thankful to him.

I also am very thankful to my family especially my parents who have raised me to be someone I’m proud to be. Being a parent myself I now understand the sacrifices you make to make ends meet and I’m one of six children so I guess they would’ve made a ton of sacrifices just to give me the life I have now.

Lastly, to my partner Lexi for always keeping me accountable. It’s not easy to juggle all these hats with working 50+ hours weekly, parenting as well as playing footy, but I get to enjoy it cause she sticks by me the whole way.