New Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita has confirmed his recovery from off-season ankle surgery is well on track and says he’ll be fit to take the field for the Indigenous All Stars should he be selected for the annual showcase when voting closes later this month.
The towering 112-kilogram hulk, who took up rugby league after being told by junior soccer club officials that he was “too rough” for their game, revealed he had bone spurs removed from his ankle but expects to be back running at Sharks training by Christmas.
With voting for the Indigenous side closing on November 28, Fifita is well in the mix for a spot in the fans’ team.
In an interview with NRL.com’s Amie Lindsall, Fifita tells how running onto Skilled Park for the Indigenous All Stars on February 4 would hold extra significance for him, having already suited up for Tonga in the representative arena.
“If I get to play it’s going to be a good privilege,” he said. “It’s the best feeling running out… from experience from our Tongan game… so I guess that’s another boost for my other half.”
Fifita said his and twin brother David’s switch to rugby league at a young age had been an eye-opener.
“We were young boys in Sydney… we started in soccer and they just said we were too rough for [their] footy,” he said. “We moved down to Griffith – and we were the little ones!”
Fifita said fellow former Wests Tigers team-mate Bryce Gibbs had been a mentor since their switch to the Sharks.
“Yeah, Bryce is a good bloke and he has pretty much taken me under his wing so it’s good to have someone I know,” he said. “It’s nice at the Shire, the boys all gave me a warm welcome.”
He is thrilled at the prospect of combining with new captain Paul Gallen as well as his childhood hero Anthony Tupou.
“When he was at the Roosters, that was my favourite team growing up and the player I used to love was Anthony Tupou… he is one of my mates now, so that’s pretty good,” he said.
“[Paul] Gallen is an inspiration to all of us, looking at his stats each week it’s just phenomenal – how can he do those stats in the one game?
“He is like a star in our eyes and he was one of the stars growing up when I was a kid… we all wanted to follow him – and he’s my captain now, so it’s a big privilege to be playing alongside him.”
However, despite his recruitment to help fill the void left by the departures of Luke Douglas (Titans) and Kade Snowden (Knights), Fifita still considers himself a ‘rookie’ and knows he has the job ahead if he’s to hold down a permanent spot in the Sharks’ 17.
“With the likes of Ben Ross, Bryce Gibbs and others, it’s going to be hard to get over them… I am still a young fish in a big pond.”
Fifita revealed the focus of his game improvement for 2012 would be getting back into the defensive line quicker.
“Getting off the ground stuff,” he revealed. “Most probably if I can narrow that down then I can play a lot longer, so that would the awesome.”