Queensland believe Andrew Fifita will step up in the absence of Paul Gallen. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
They’ve already seen injury and suspension disrupt their build-up, but NSW forward Andrew Fifita says the Blues are determined to put an end to Queensland’s seven-year dominance when they travel into enemy territory next week.
“I’m feeling confident. I’m 100 per cent that we will do the job, no matter what,” Fifita told NRL.com after being named to play his second State of Origin next Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium. “Who is and isn’t there... it doesn’t really matter. I know everyone will turn up for each other. That’s how we are and how tight we are.”
Having produced a brilliant defensive performance to take the series opener 14-6 a fortnight ago, NSW have since lost fullback Jarryd Hayne to injury and prop James Tamou to suspension with Josh Dugan and Aaron Woods called in as their replacements. Hooker Robbie Farah is also recovering from a fractured cheekbone suffered in Game One although he is almost certain to play. But Fifita said the disruptions wouldn’t affect the Blues.
“I don’t think it’s backs against the wall,” he said. “Losing Jimmy was a big loss but we’ve got plenty of depth. Aaron Woods has done a fantastic job this season. He just has to come in and do the same role. I know him personally and I know he’ll be able to handle it.
“But that’s the thing about this squad. For me, it really was a confidence boost having Gal (Paul Gallen) and Lewie (Luke Lewis) beside me in Game One. At times, I remember at one stage I had Gal on one side of me and Lewie on the other and it felt just like I was playing at Cronulla. It helps to know who you’re playing with. Plus I’ve played with Robbie Farah before and I’ve always loved playing with Robbie.
“But I enjoyed playing with all of them. In that camp, we all bonded so quickly. I couldn’t believe how well we came together in a week and a half. I haven’t stopped talking to the boys and I can’t wait to get back into camp.”
Fifita was particularly impressive on debut, producing a devastating run with his first touch of the ball, and said he had felt like he belonged from the minute he walked into camp.
“Going into this camp, I’m just going to have to prepare like I did the last one,” he said. “I’m rooming with Trent Merrin and he kind of took me under his wing last game. He was a rookie last year so he told me what to do.
“He just told me to relax. He said ‘as we drive there on the bus, it’s going to hit you then so just try and calm down’ – but it didn’t really. It was more running onto the field. I just remember thinking, ‘wow, this is awesome’. I just felt so proud to be out there playing for my state.
“This game here though I reckon we’re going to have to prepare even harder and tougher. An Origin at Suncorp… I’ve never experienced it. I’ve seen videos and I reckon it’s going to be one hell of a place to get in to. I’m just going to take my opportunity and I want to do NSW proud. You’re playing for your state, not playing for your club or your city, so I just want to go hard.”
Fifita might not have played Origin before this year but he understands the pain of those seven consecutive series losses as well as anyone given his entire family – including twin brother David – grew up supporting Queensland!
But having already changed their allegiance, he now plans to make his mark in the record books too.
“It would mean the world to win this series,” he said. “Getting tortured for the past seven years… my whole family goes for Queensland, my brothers were born there and I was the only one that went for NSW. The first time I saw them wearing blue a few weeks ago was a bit weird.
“But at the end of the day if I can put my little one per cent in and help the team win the series this year, I’ll be over the moon. I know when we go to Queensland it’s going to be totally different. We haven’t got the crowd on our side. We’ve just got those 17 blokes standing side by side and that’s what we’re there for.”