Explosive Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita never really liked Michael Ennis. But after becoming teammates this season, and following the veteran hooker's unexpected return to the Origin arena, Fifita said Ennis – or the "best bloke" he knows – will benefit the Sharks moving forward after another interstate appearance.
Speaking on Wednesday, before even Ennis was a confirmed starter for New South Wales as an injury replacement for regular rake Robbie Farah, Fifita was praying for his newfound brother to play his eighth Origin game.
After Ennis led the Sharks to victory (by producing three try assists) to end the Cowboys' 11-game winning streak the last time he played a fortnight ago, his brush with the Origin arena excites Fifita.
"Before this year I never really liked the guy because he was such a grub to us but now I'd put him down as one of the best blokes I know. Champion on the field, champion off it and a champion I love to play with," Fifita said.
"I always tell him [he's a grub]. He was always up in your face when you played against him and was always setting the tone, but nowadays when I've been in a few push and shoves he's the first bloke I see to my right or left.
"No disrespect to Farah, but they [would've] been mad not playing someone who was 100 per cent fit. The last time he played for the Sharks, he set me and two other blokes up for a try so he has points in his game, and defensively he loves getting quick up off the line and putting on a shot against a bloke."
Labelling Ennis the biggest man motivator he's ever played with, Fifita said the former Bulldogs captain has taken his professionalism to "another level", and has proven a timely acquisition considering the Sharks' wooden spoon 2014 season from hell.
"Micky's a very professional player and he's totally different compared to some of the past and present hookers at the club," Fifita said.
"He brings so much experience and knowledge of the game. I didn't think anybody could top John Morris and the experience he brought with his 300 games but Micky Ennis took it to another level. I just love playing with the guy."
While he would've loved to join Ennis for the Origin decider, Fifita said he had no "hard feelings" towards Blues coach Laurie Daley after being dropped from the side following NSW's Origin I loss.
Speaking for the first time since his Origin demotion, Fifita said he expected it after admitting his second child's impending birth played on his mind in the lead up to Game One.
"Being away at Coffs Harbour when she was overdue, where she could've popped at any time, was the worst thing because I thought she would've popped on Origin night," Fifita said.
"But she came to the ground to watch and she looked okay. Once she had it, it was like a monkey off my back.
"It hasn't been that difficult to re-focus back on club footy. Everyone looks up to you because you're the rep player in the team and if I can take that leadership and the little things I've taken away from Origin camp into the Cronulla team then we're going to be much better a team."