TOWERING centre Tautau Moga is racing to start next season and complete what shapes as the biggest three-quarter line in the history of the Newcastle Knights.
Moga, a high-profile recruit from Brisbane 12 months ago, managed only four games in his debut campaign with the Knights before suffering a season-ending injury to his left knee.
The 25-year-old Queenslander is all too familiar with the recovery process, having undergone three complete reconstructions on his right knee during previous stints with Sydney Roosters and North Queensland.
He is close to resuming full-contact training and hopes to be available for Newcastle’s main pre-season trial, against Cronulla at Maitland Sportsground on Saturday, March 2.
“It’s coming along good,” he said.
“We’re slowly getting there, but we’re getting there.
“I’ve been through it before, and I’m trying to just take my time and work on what they need me to work on. The plan is to get a bit of game time in the trials, but we’ll see how we go.”
At 1.94 metres and 109 kilograms, Moga is one of the NRL’s heavyweight centres.
He is likely to line up next season on Newcastle’s left edge, partnering former Canberra and Cronulla winger Edrick Lee.
At 1.96m and 100kg, Lee will be the tallest backline player to have worn the red and blue.
“I’ve played with Ed before in school footy and for Queensland [under-20s] when we were younger,” Moga said.
“He’s a tremendous finisher and a big body, too, so it’s going to be a good thing having him on my outside.”
On the other side of the field, former Cronulla centre Jesse Ramien will be the smallest of Newcastle’s first-choice outside backs, at 1.84m and 98kg.
He is expected to pair up with veteran Shaun Kenny-Dowall (1.94m, 104kg), while former South Sydney utility Hymel Hunt (1.91m, 99kg) is likely to come into calculations if there are injuries.
Newcastle’s upsized outside backs are in stark contrast to recent seasons, when diminutive speedsters like Nathan Ross, Ken Sio, Jake Mamo and Brendan Elliot have been regulars.
Knights coach Nathan Brown hopes the extra height will not only help his team in attack, but also in defence, given that Newcastle conceded more tries from kicks last season than any rival team.
Moga said the potential of Newcastle’s strike weapons out wide, running onto the passes of Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga, was exciting.
“I was at the Broncos with Corey Oates, and now it seems like I could have big Ed outside me,” he said.
“Big bodies, it’s good.”
Moga was looking forward to receiving the all-clear to resume full training.
“The camaraderie with the boys gets you through the day, and through the tough sessions as well,” he said.
“It’s a team sport, and that’s what it’s all about.”
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