Sharks teammates backing Fifita
Sharks halves James Maloney and Chad Townsend have publically backed under-siege prop Andrew Fifita ahead of the Sharks' opening finals clash against the Raiders on Saturday.
The 27-year-old was handed a consorting warning last week, and while there weren't allegations of unlawful behaviour levelled at him Fifita copped it from all quarters.
Fifita was booed by a 24,000-strong AAMI Park crowd last weekend throughout the Sharks' 26-6 loss to the Storm but responded immediately with a 167-metre, 31-tackle performance.
Sharks halfback Chad Townsend said he took it upon himself to help Fifita stay focused on his playing responsibilities in the lead-up to the Storm match.
"I thought his game on the weekend was really positive," Townsend said.
"He played very well. I guess the crowd were getting into him and other players but I mentioned to him just to focus on him and focus on doing yourself well.
"I told him that he can't control what other people do so I was very proud of the way he handled himself. I'll always be there to support him no matter what.
"For me as a teammate and the halfback, to be able to help him and push him to get his head space right is what's best."
Townsend's halves partner Maloney echoed his teammate's sentiments and said it was important for every Sharks player to lift after their disappointing last-start loss.
"Andrew seems sweet. There's been no real conversations about what went on. He seems in a good space," Maloney said of Fifita.
"It's a good time of the year and he seems focused and wants to do very well. We just need to make sure everyone is on song and pushing in the right direction."
Maloney is gearing up for the sixth finals series of his eight-season career but will carry an unfortunate personal statistic into the opening week of the finals.
The 30-year-old has lost five of his six Finals Week 1 clashes during his time at the Warriors and the Roosters.
The only time Maloney emerged victorious in the opening week of the finals was in a 4-0 win over the Sea Eagles in 2013 – the year his Roosters side won the NRL Telstra Premiership.
"Hopefully we can reverse that stat because week one is pretty important, especially if you finish in the top four," Maloney said.
"It's a big game and a good opportunity for us to sit back for a week and let everyone go at it. It'll be nice to rip and tear [in Canberra]."