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Australia's answer to Karl Tu'inukuafe

By Online Editors

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Queensland Reds prop Feao Fotuaika is Super Rugby’s feel-good story of 2019.

The 25-year-old shed 16kg over four months to live his dream as a professional rugby player, motivated by a heartbreaking loss – the suicide of his older brother in 2013.


His jaw-dropping transformation came after Reds coach Brad Thorn and scrum coach Cameron Lillicrap saw a raw player with bundles of potential.

To make the most of his rugby playing talent, Fotuaika made the decision to change his diet, cutting out fast food and energy drinks to drop the excess.

Fotuaika’s path is reminiscent of Blues prop Karl Tu’inukuafe, who rose from anonymity to the All Blacks after going from 170kg to 135kg and impressing with the Chiefs in 2018.

Fotuaika is set to make his Reds debut as part of the run-on side to face the Highlanders on Friday.

“Feao is a feel good story,” Thorn told Fox Sports.

“He was out of shape and on the verge of giving up the game.


“We identified him playing club rugby last year and his transformation since has been something to admire.

“Between Brynley Abad (strength and conditioning coach) and Cameron Liliicrap, Feao has dropped 16 kilos in the preseason and his scrummaging is now very dominant.”

Fotuaika has used a great personal tragedy as a core motivator.

His older brother Mosese was a successful junior rugby league player and was a member of the Wests Tigers squad before committing suicide in 2013 at just 20 years old.


Fotuaika’s younger brother Moeaki played 16 games for the Gold Coast Titans last year.

“I want to finish off my brother’s legacy… I’m playing for family,” Fotuaika said in an interview with The Courier Mail earlier this month.

“My little brother plays for the Titans and we both do it for our family and Mosese.

“I was 25, working on demolition jobs as a labourer and there was nothing at the door rugby-wise so I was close to finishing up.

“I remember clearly sitting down on a Friday with Brad and ‘Crapper’ (Lillicrap).

“They took a chance on me and said if I lost 10kg, if I was ready to change some bad habits, they’d consider me for a contract.”

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Australia's answer to Karl Tu'inukuafe