Toronto Wolfpack sign Tongan international rugby star Fuifui Moimoi
New Zealand's Fuifui Moimoi, right, is tackled by England's Gareth Ellis, left, during their Four Nations rugby league match at the Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield, England, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
TORONTO -- The Toronto Wolfpack have made the biggest signing of their short history, landing former Tongan and New Zealand international Fuifui Moimoi.
The 37-year-old prop spent 11 seasons with the Parramatta Eels in Australia's National Rugby League before moving to England to play for the Leigh Centurions under Paul Rowley, who is now coach of the fledgling Wolfpack.
The Toronto team is set to open play in March in the Kingstone Press 1, the third tier of English rugby league. The goal is to win promotion and ultimately make it to the elite Super League.
Moimoi began his international career representing New Zealand, but switched in 2013 to representing Tonga, where he was born. The six-foot, 242-pound front-rower achieved cult status with Parramatta, for whom he made 201 appearances, in part to his powerful runs.
"It's a magnificent coup for the Wolfpack to acquire Fui's services," Rowley said in a statement. "He's an iconic brand and will add an additional physical presence to an already impressive lineup.
"His wealth of international and club experience will be a great benefit both on and off the pitch. I also think that our club fans especially those based in Toronto and North America will love his free flowing and aggressive style of play, as we all know, he has left dents all over Australia, New Zealand and the U.K."
The Wolfpack also announced a partnership with Kappa on team kit and merchandise.
The team also announced a pair of high-profile pre-season games at Hull FC, the 2016 Challenge Cup Champion, on Jan, 22 and the Wigan Warriors, the 2016 Super League Champion, on Feb. 5.
In his prime, Moimoi -- whose nicknames have included the Tongan Torpedo and Steam Train -- was a wrecking ball.
In 2009, physicist Nicholas Armstrong calculated that stopping Moimoi was akin to catching a 20-kilogram bag of cement dropped from 22 metres. The Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2009 that Moimoi was able to accelerate from jogging pace to 26 km/h within two seconds. His top speed on a treadmill was 31.2 km/h and he had been measured at 32 km/h in game situations.
"I love to smash," he said upon signing with Leigh in 2014. "I love to get hit and challenge the other team to see who's the strongest and most skilful in my position."
"He's the horse in our team," Eels centre Krisnan Inu told the Sydney newspaper in 2009. "He loves to eat it, so that's why he runs like one."
He eats like a horse, Inu was asked? "No, he eats horse," Inu was quoted as saying. "It tastes nice. Every Islander eats a bit of horse."
Earlier this year, Moimoi survived a life-threatening infection.