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'To Trey Mooney': The birthday gift driving a Raiders rookie to be the best

Trey Mooney doesn’t need to remember why he wants to be an NRL star. Every morning he wakes up to see an award telling him he is.

In 2013, a young Mooney fell in love with rugby league watching Australia and New Zealand in the ANZAC Test at GIO Stadium, and knew from that moment on all he wanted to do was become a professional rugby league player.

What he needed was something to help bring that dream to life.

“I remember watching Australia and New Zealand and seeing the atmosphere and the hype and I thought wow, I really want to be a part of that,” the Raiders rookie forward told

“I was turning 10 soon after and my old man said to me ‘Trey what would you like for your birthday?’ and I told him I wanted something that says I’m going to be the best rugby league player in the world.

“So he gave me this little made-up award that said ‘To Trey Mooney, the best rugby league player in the world.’

Mooney during Raiders 2023 pre-season training.
Mooney during Raiders 2023 pre-season training. ©Supplied

 “It still hangs on my wall next to my bed and every time I go on camp or tours, I always take it with me.

I’m a big believer that if you can see it you can believe it.

Raiders forward Trey Mooney

10 years on from that moment in the nation's capital and the Parramatta junior is well on track to making a name for himself in the rugby league world after he was recruited back to Canberra by the late Peter Mulholland in 2020.

An Australian Schoolboy, SG Ball standout and NSW Under 19’s captain, Mooney has long been a star in the making but said it was a big adjustment joining the Green Machine in 2021.

Season shapers: Raiders

“I was 17 when I first moved to Canberra and the first few months were pretty tough being away from my family,” he said.

“I met Pete when I was trialling out for the Australian Schoolboys team; he made the transition a lot easier for me, whether that was finding work or somewhere to live.

“Coming from junior footy and sort of being at the top of my game back to being at the bottom of the food chain again, you start to realise things are a lot harder at this level.

“You’re not the big fish anymore and it's really humbling. You realise you’ve got so much work to do and even when you think you are standard and everything is going well, you can’t just walk into an NRL team.”

With one NRL appearance to his name after making his debut in Round 13 last season, Mooney's services will no doubt be called upon by Raiders coach Ricky Stuart in 2023 following the exits of Ryan Sutton and Adam Elliott.

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“I’m trying to really focus this year on what I need to do to become a consistent first grader,” he said.

“Last year was an eye opener making my debut but through injury I think I missed a few opportunities to play more NRL games.

“But the year taught me about what it means to be a first grader and what I have to do to be consistent.”

Training on the very field where he first witnessed the magic of rugby league, Mooney believes it's in the nation's capital that he can turn a long-time dream into reality, learning from some of the best international forwards in the game.

Emre Guler (left) and Trey Mooney (right) during pre-season training.
Emre Guler (left) and Trey Mooney (right) during pre-season training. ©Supplied

“I reckon we have one of the better forward packs in the competition with Papa (Josh Papali’i), Taps (Joe Tapine) and Elliot Whitehead,” Mooney said.

“I really look up to Taps. I wouldn’t say he’s the most vocal of players compared to some of the other leaders but he leads by his actions.

“He takes no backwards step in training as well which shows on the field. Last year he had a big year and I think his focus on preparation and training, really showed in his performances.

“I was never really one to idolise or look up to players but as soon as you begin to train and play with these guys you start to pick up tips and parts of their game that you can add to your own.

“Obviously no one is going to be another Papa or Taps but it’s good to take small learnings that I can bring to my own game.”

Wise beyond his years, the emerging middle forward said he's been handed a multitude of advice throughout his junior rugby league years but one phrase, in particular, he keeps forefront of mind.

"I've definitely been handed a lot of advice over the years, especially in the footy world," he said. 

"But I’d say if I had one piece of advice that I always go back to it would be one an old trainer once told me - you have to have a 'why.' Because sometimes in your career you are going to face things that are bigger than yourself and if you don’t have a 'why', then what’s the point?

"My why, I guess, is because I made a promise to myself that I was going to be a rugby league player. Now it's not about the if but about the when."

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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