“I FEEL at home already” admitted Fuifui Moimoi as he stood before a sell-out welcome event held in his honour at Leigh Sports Village.
The Tongan forward, signed from NRL side Parramatta Eels, appeared overwhelmed faced with hundreds of Centurions fans, some of whom were wearing Afro wigs in tribute to Moimoi’s impressive mop of hair.
Replica shirts with ‘Moimoi 8’ were everywhere and even a few Parramatta jerseys too.
As a sleet storm raged outside and temperatures barely scraped zero outside, inside we were transported to the Polynesian island thanks to a display of traditional dance led by former Leigh favourite Lee Hansen.
An imposing forward during a playing career which also included stints at Wigan and Widnes, Hansen and his troupe performed an energetic - and at times quite intimidating - routine which ended with Moimoi being presented with a garland of flowers around his neck.
Moimoi, a notoriously quiet man off the pitch, clearly enjoyed the welcome as he embraced his old friend Hansen who made his home in Leigh after his career ended.
“I’m very lucky to be here and already feel part of Leigh Centurions,” said Moimoi. “I was based here with the Tongan team for the Rugby League World Cup in 2013 and will never forget how crazy the fans were.
“I didn’t think I would ever play in the UK but I can’t wait to get started.
“I’m very excited and my new team mates are good lads and a pretty funny bunch. I have been impressed with the skill of the players and can’t wait for the first game.”
The fans got the chance to ask Moimoi questions but he was pretty bemused when one asked him if he preferred his lobby with or without a crust.
Moimoi will make his Leigh debut in Sunday’s friendly against Wigan at the Sports Village.