Melbourne prop Bryan Norrie, who shared in last year’s premiership with the Storm, has described Cronulla and now NSW State of Origin prop Andrew Fifita’s potential as “frightening”.
The Storm will play host to the Sharks at AAMI Park on Sunday night. After losing five of their first seven games, the Sharks have bounced back to win four straight, and Fifita’s stunning form has been a big reason for their surge.
Fifita, 23, has been registering great numbers all season for the Sharks, but his form has gone up to an extraordinary level during their recent winning run.
In the 21-20 win over Newcastle, he played for 59 minutes and made 25 runs for 251 metres, with one offload. When the Sharks beat Wests Tigers 30-6, he played for 46 minutes and made 20 runs for 189 metres, scoring a try.
Fifita played for 55 minutes when the Sharks beat Canberra 30-20, and made 20 runs for 204 metres, with one line-break and a try. In their most recent match, a 14-12 win over South Sydney, Fifita was out there for 65 minutes and made 26 runs for 210 metres, with one offload, plus 46 tackles.
Making his NSW debut in the 14-6 win over Queensland at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday, Fifita backed up his club form with a solid display that immediately suggested he was at home in the Origin arena.
“His form’s been outstanding,” Norrie observed of Fifita. “He definitely deserves to be in Origin.
“Against Souths, the amount of hit-ups and metres and tackles he made was phenomenal – and that was just what the Blues needed [in Origin].
“He just keeps getting better and better, so it’s going to be pretty frightening to see how good he eventually gets.”
Norrie said he and the rest of the Storm forwards would have to work very hard to try to keep Fifita from cutting loose on Sunday.
“The amount of tackle-breaks he made against Souths [in Round 11] was ridiculous for a front-rower,” Norrie said. “So he’s a special footballer and he’s obviously someone we have to try to contain.
“He’s going to be hard to stop. He’s going to be a key player whose impact we’re going to have to try to minimise, so you’ve just got to do your best against him.
“He’s going to be pretty confident with how his football is going, and so he should be.”
Norrie rated Cronulla’s recent form as being at least as good as any team in the competition.
“They’re playing really good football,” he said. “Their last game, they were outstanding.
“They’re a very strong side. They’ve got some high-quality players on their roster, so we’ve got to make sure we turn up for them.”
The other teams that are in the top four on the competition table along with the second-placed Storm – South Sydney (first), Sydney Roosters (third) and Manly (fourth) – have all rightfully been the subjects of plenty of praise for their efforts this season.
But the fact remains that all four teams have played each other once and that the Storm are the only team that is unbeaten against the other three. The Storm beat the Rabbitohs and Roosters and drew with the Sea Eagles.
“To be honest, I wasn’t aware of how all that compared,” Norrie said. “We just take each game as it comes.
“It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, if you don’t turn up you’re going to get dusted, and we had a bit of a form slump there for a few weeks.
“Then, in our last two games, we had a draw with Manly and got the win against the Roosters, so hopefully we’ve got some momentum coming into the Sharks game.
“The teams that are in the top four, they’re there for a reason. Souths, the Roosters and Manly have been outstanding this year, and they’ve been really tough games for us.
“It’s a very tight comp and Penrith dusted us up quite well and so did Canberra, so you’ve got to be ready to go every week.
“Earlier in the season, for a few weeks we were lucky we didn’t lose a game before we finally did. Our form dropped considerably and it was becoming a bit of a concern, and then we did end up losing a couple.
“I don’t think our execution was as good as it had been, and if you’re off a little bit you’ll get beaten, so that’s sort of what happened. But we managed to turn things around – you just have to keep working on things.”