Jirah Momoisea is no stranger to individual setbacks.
Having played a limited amount of football over the past two seasons combined with a devastating pre-season injury, the 22-year-old has faced his fair share of adversity.
Fast forward to August 21, 2021 and Momoisea will take his place in the nib Newcastle Knights line-up for their upcoming fixture with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
It has been an inspiring and wholesome journey for Newcastle Knight #329 who says he is eagerly awaiting his debut game.
“It feels unreal,” Momoisea said.
“It has been a long time coming.
“With the injury and COVID (impacts last year), it’s been a tough ride.”
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Born in New Zealand, Jirah grew up playing rugby union.
The Melbourne Storm identified the athletic forward while still in school before he made his way to Newcastle in 2018.
Showcasing a great work ethic, alongside a natural talent and a desire to develop, Momoisea was rewarded with an upgrade to the top 30 playing roster in 2020.
However, the last two seasons have shaped as a rollercoaster ride for the middle to edge forward.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of the NSW Cup competition last season, meaning limited opportunties for many of the development players.
“I think, all up, I’ve only played about five games this past two years,” Momoisea said.
“It was always in the back of my mind to train as hard as I could.
“That’s what kept me going, to earn a shot at my debut.”
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The new year provided another opportunity for Momoisea to work hard and push his claims for a top-grade berth.
Although, an ill-fated injury would strike the 22-year-old at the beginning of pre-season.
A ruptured achilles forced the youngster to return to the drawing board and work hard to return to full fitness.
“When I did it, it was pretty much the second running session of the pre-season,” Momoisea said.
“All that built-up hype of pre-season and wanting to have a good one and play, but to have that happen.
“It was devastating.
“It took about six months going through rehabilitation and making sure I did everything I could to get back running and playing again."
To the delight of everyone involved at the Club, Momoisea made a triumphant return in the NSW Cup side’s Round 12 fixture this season.
With injuries and suspension to Daniel Saifiti and Tyson Frizell, Head Coach Adam O’Brien has given the forward his opportunity.
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“I’m looking forward to running out alongside all the boys,” Momoisea said.
“I’ve trained with them for over the last two years and to get my chance is huge.
“It means a lot to me.
“I think I can bring a bit of aggression and be another big body on the field.”
Fans can expect to see a dynamic runner with the ability to provide a great offload.
Jirah also said many of the current players have been influential in his progression and have helped in the build-up to his first crack in the NRL.
“Junior (Mitchell Pearce) has helped a lot,” Momoisea said.
“He has helped make sure I’m ready mentally and has ran me through the plays.
“Also guys like the Saifiti brothers and Barney have been huge for me in getting myself physically ready and helping me believe in myself."
Momoisea will wear jersey No. 16 on his special occasion.