Emotional Haka reminds Mooney Canberra is his home

Jasper Bruce |

Trey Mooney (l) knew Canberra is his home after performing the Haka with the victorious Raiders.
Trey Mooney (l) knew Canberra is his home after performing the Haka with the victorious Raiders.

Performing the Haka in tribute to the late Quentin Pongia, Canberra young gun Trey Mooney knew he had made the right call in re-signing with the Raiders.

Canberra’s 1994 premiership-winning team attended the club’s Magic Round clash at Suncorp Stadium, where the Raiders fought back for a 24-20 win on Friday night.

But as the 30th anniversary of the Raiders’ most recent premiership triumph approaches, there was a notable absence from the champion team – prop forward Pongia died of bowel cancer in 2019 at 48.

Pongia’s presence loomed large at the Raiders in the years after he retired.

He held a number of roles at the club between 2008 and 2011, including NRL assistant coach under David Furner. To this day, the club’s wrestling room is named in his honour.

In tribute to Pongia, the Raiders observed a post-match minute of silence in the dressing room, before veteran Jordan Rapana led the club’s Kiwi players in performing the Haka.

“It was a lovely sign of respect for Quentin Pongia,” said coach Ricky Stuart.

“I love the passion that they put into the Haka. It’s something that probably replicated the passion and the emotion of the game.”

A Maori prop like Pongia, Mooney relished the chance to share his culture with past and current Raiders.

“The best way I can describe (the Haka) is it feels like a deeper connection to the people around you,” he told AAP.

“When you’re all in that moment together, it’s a feeling where you’re all one.”

The emotional scenes came only days after Mooney signed a multi-year extension to remain at the Raiders past 2024.

Rated one of the best young props in the game, the 22-year-old attracted interest from around the league, including from cashed-up triple reigning premiers Penrith.

But Mooney was always sure a deal could be struck and said the scenes in the dressing room after full-time proved he’d made the right decision.

“Obviously there were some chats going on, but at the same time my heart was probably always set on staying here,” he said.

“I obviously had some decisions to weigh up family-wise, but I’m super excited (to stay), otherwise I’d miss moments like that (the Haka).

“As far as a family club goes, I think this is the premier club in the competition.”

Mooney began the year playing NSW Cup but has been on the bench for the first-grade team for every game since round six.

There are no guarantees Mooney will play first grade every week, but chats with Stuart have encouraged him.

“This is a club where nothing’s promised,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we’ve spoken and we both agreed that if I’m playing well, I’ll play first grade. But at the same time I’ve got the challenge of competing every week with some of the best middles in the world.

“That’s just going to make me a better player.”