FUIFUI Moimoi is expected to pull on a Leigh shirt for the first time on Sunday when Centurions take on Wigan in a friendly at the Sports Village.
Leigh officials hailed the signing of the former Parramatta Eels forward as one of the biggest in the club’s history when it was announced back in November.
And last week the Tongan powerhouse forward finally met up with his new team-mates at a training camp in Lanzarote.
Before he even landed in the UK, Leigh fans were snapping up Moimoi merchandise and the club has sold more shirts with his name on than any other player.
The signing made headlines both here and in Sydney - a sign of Moimoi’s popularity with Parramatta where he was a real fans’ favourite after playing more than 200 NRL games.
We asked some Australian journalists what Leigh fans can expect from the Tongan and how they think he will go in 2015.
Editor of Rugby League World Gareth Walker also remembers the night he tried to interview Moimoi with interesting results.
Steve Mascord, RLW and Sydney Morning Herald
“If it’s possible to be a ‘character’ without many people having ever heard you talk, then that’s what Fuifui MoiMoi is. In fact, such a character that despite repeated denials that he speaks in English, Fui is about to put out an autobiography in that very language. This is not, however, the language he spoke when interviewed by Gareth Walker during the World Cup (see below) I’m sure the Tongan edition of the book will come out eventually.”
Nick Walshaw, Daily Telegraph:
“Fuifui Moimoi is no longer the same player who scored one of league’s great tries in the 2009 Grand Final. Yet despite being older and slower, his desire to go forward, to “love the smash” remains. Plus, after falling out of favour at Parramatta, we cannot wait to see how the tattooed Tongan responds to a club willing to “show him some love”.”
The Mole, Rugby League Week
“Fui is a man of few words but does all his talking on the field.
“He is one of the hardest ball runners in the NRL and developed a cult following at Parramatta because of his wholehearted approach. In defence, he hits and hits hard. He will give good value.
“By the way he has just finished his autobiography - not out yet but it will ruffle a few feathers apparently.”
Ian McCullough, journalist, Australian Associated Press
“A man of few words who even after 10 years with Parramatta would mischievously claim to speak no English when asked for an interview or go walkabouts on the odd occasion when he did agree to speak.
“But his popularity with Eels fans never dwindled despite his barnstorming runs of yore becoming less frequent over the last two years.
“But the roar of “Fuiiiiii” from the crowd as he steamed into an opponent, ball under arm, remained loud to the end and there was a genuine outpouring of affection as he farewelled the Parra faithful at halftime in their last home game of 2014 against Manly.
“Jarryd Hayne got all the plaudits for Parra’s remarkable run to the 2009 Grand Final, but Fui was an absolute beast in the final 10 games of that season - a fact that is criminally overlooked.
“His best days are behind him, but the Leigh fans will no doubt instantly take him to hearts just as Parramatta’s did in 2004 when he takes that first hit-up.”
Gareth Walker, editor Rugby League World magazine and Sunday People
“I was standing in for regular Premier Sports touchline reporter Natalie Quirk at the Italy-Tonga World Cup game, and having worked almost exclusively in newspapers and magazines, was already a little out of my comfort zone.
“So when Fuifui decided to respond to a straight-forward question fully in Tongan live on air, I had no idea how to act. It wasn’t just a few words either, it was a lengthy response, at the end of which all I could come up with was “thanks”.
“The interview, if you could call it that, was also played out on the stadium tannoy to those still in the ground from a sell-out crowd.
“I was fairly mortified at the time, but could hear through my headphones the response from the truck and that from the main stand - which was basically plenty of laughter.
“I was receiving texts and tweets straight away and could see the funny side immediately. Half an hour later I spotted Fuifui in the tunnel - he had just about finished shaking everyone’s hand, signing countless autographs and having pictures taken.
“I re-introduced myself as a mate of Nigel Wiskar’s - the assistant editor of the Sunday People who had called his son Ted Fuifui and become friends with the big prop - and was greeted with the trademark smile.
“Later, another mate who is a photographer posted a picture on Twitter of me looking bemused, to say the least, while “interviewing” Fuifui on air. That brought a bit more stick - but it’s now definitely one of my best memories from working in the game.”