ALTHOUGH he never expected to be back in Hull FC colours again, now he actually is, refreshed Mahe Fonua is looking forward to concluding some urgent unfinished business.
Already a Black and Whites legend having helped them famously end that Wembley hoodoo with back-to-back Challenge Cup final wins in 2016 and 2017, the powerful wing is currently eyeing yet more history-making feats.
Fonua – who has spent the last two seasons at home in the NRL with Wests Tigers – firmly believes Lee Radford’s side can lift a maiden Super League title next year and a first championship of any kind since 1983.
It is certainly not beyond their grasp.
Granted, the East Yorkshire club has struggled badly at times during the fans’ favourite’s return to Australia, not least with a sobering 13-match losing run that stretched out from 2018 into the start of this year.
They still looked set to make the play-offs only to again stutter spectacularly at the death, losing their last four games to be pipped into fifth by Castleford Tigers.
Me and Radford are good mates and he reached out when I actually needed him the most.Mahe Fonua
However, the level of stellar recruitment ahead of 2020 suggests they can be genuine contenders.
As well as Fonua’s return, Tonga second-row Manu Ma’u and New Zealand Warriors prop Ligi Sao have also arrived from the NRL while, domestically, Great Britain tourist Josh Jones has joined from Grand Finalists Salford Red Devils, St Helens winger Adam Swift is looking to kick-start his career and promising young talents Joe Cator and Jordan Johnstone add further depth.
Fonua, who arrived back in the UK last week, said: “I reckon winning the Grand Final would be bigger than winning the Challenge Cup.
“And I think that’s probably going to be the next goal for the club.
“After lifting back-to-back Challenge Cups, I think things went downhill maybe, but with the squad the club is trying to build, I think we can definitely be up there with the likes of St Helens and Wigan.
“I’m really excited for next year and hopefully we can make it to Old Trafford.
“The Challenge Cup is held in high regard but that’s not the week-to-week competition that we play in.
“It’s good to make Wembley and win the Challenge Cup but you train all season to play 29 rounds of a season which is the Super League.
“To be honest I think that’s the pinnacle and to be able to make it there would be a credit to the staff and the players, so hopefully we can get it done.
“I’m here to create new memories – hopefully some good ones.”
But Fonua, who turns 27 on Christmas Eve and scored in both those epic Wembley wins, realises he has a battle on simply to get in Radford’s side.
He admitted he preferred to play centre rather than wing but conceded: “My preference is probably just to be on the field to be honest.
“There’s good players in our squad and we’re stacked in the outside backs region.
“You have Grand Final winners in Swift, Jake Connor, a GB international, even Bureta (Farimo), he played for the USA a couple of weeks ago and then you’ve got our army man Ratu (Naulago).
“I’ve only heard good things about him and his highlight reel is spectacular.”
But Fonua’s is not too shabby either, ‘The Beast with the Golden Teeth’ having lit up Super League during his first stint after arriving from Melbourne Storm at the end of 2015.
When he headed back to the NRL with Wests, he never envisaged returning and he had always expected to stay in Australia.
“To be honest, ideally that would have been best for me and my family,” admitted Fonua, who broke his foot playing for Wests in June.
“Me and my wife have two small kids and moving over to the UK with no immediate support group is pretty tough.
“That was the initial reason we moved back to the NRL from the Super League because we were having our first daughter.
“Me and Radders have kept in touch over the two years I’ve been back in the NRL.
“With our sport, it’s a very physical game and it’s unfortunate that we get injured.
“I got injured and it had me out for the rest of the season which wasn’t an ideal time when I was playing for a new contract.
“Had Radders not kept in touch, I would have had to rush back to then play for another contract or the clubs would have had the upper hand.
“Me and Radford are good mates and he reached out when I actually needed him the most.
“I’m thankful for him and the club for bringing me back, especially with the squad we’re building because on paper we look like a very sound team.
“If we perform as good as we look on paper we can do some damage. My daughter was born here as well and Hull is definitely in my heart – we have history and chemistry – so they were always my first preference unless another team came and blew it out of the park.”
It is opposition Super League defences, though, who will now be worried about getting blown off the park. The Beast is back.