Fifita opens up about Origin furore
Sharks prop Andrew Fifita has opened up about the controversy surrounding whether or not he should have started Game Three of this year's State of Origin campaign, revealing he was unaware of any plans that Blues coach Laurie Daley might have had about moving him back to the bench for the series decider.
It was revealed in the aftermath of New South Wales' 22-6 loss to the Maroons in Origin III that Daley had approached enforcer David Klemmer to start in place of Fifita, only for the Game One man-of-the-match to change his coach's mind after they had their own private meeting.
However, the 28-year-old wrecking ball denies they spoke about plans to change his role heading into the Suncorp Stadium showdown and that he would have been happy to start from the bench; something he's done in seven of his 10 Origin appearances.
"I didn't know anything about that whole starting issue," Fifita said.
"I play wherever. In past Origins, I loved coming off the bench and I wouldn't have a problem with that. I loved playing an impact role, don't get me wrong.
"We sat down and we had a talk and it was just about a few things, what was going on around camp, [it was] more of a leadership kind of meeting. I am one of the older boys in the team now and it was just basically the little things to patch things up.
"I'm not too sure where it went from there. I was hidden in the back about that whole kind of stuff, about starting and not starting.
"I saw the logic of it. It's 17 players, they're replacing each other on and off the field. It would've been the same.
"As long as I'm in that 17, I'm happy. It really doesn't matter where I am, what's best for the coach is what's best for the team and that's what I'm all about."
Fifita, who dominated the series opener with 183 metres, a try and an assist in a performance that had him compared to the great Arthur Beetson, was well-handled from then on with the Maroons able to limit his impact with ball in hand.
"With the form stuff, anyone who comes out and plays a game like I did in Game One... it was most probably the hardest thing I've had to do coming up against the whole Queensland team pretty much coming after you," he said.
"It was tough, once you're up the top of your game it's trying to find ways you can keep it up there and at Origin level I just couldn't. Every single time I ran the ball, they were at my face. Trying to get something on and they would shut it straight down.
"Things didn't go my way in the last two games but in the first game they surely did.
"I really want to win an Origin series, and it just wasn't meant to be. It's in God's hands and if it wasn't meant to be it's going to give me the drive for next year. It's still a goal and at the end of the day I reckon I'll reach my potential and receive that goal one day."
It was a difficult build-up to Game Three for Fifita whose partner was due to give birth while he also had to contend with a disturbing photo on social media that racially vilified his daughter.
Fifita said he was pleased with how the Kallangur Tavern had responded to the situation and denied the incident had any effect on his performance.
"I feel like they were pretty good, they apologised and I think they're putting the young man, the manager, through a course about Indigenous people and Indigenous history," he said.
"I think they're a franchise of over 300 pubs around Australia, they've hired one Indigenous person on a new apprentice role so it's kind of good in that way.
"The picture for me, it's more embarrassing for their look. I'm all for going for me. Words can't harm me - you can go for me all you want - but when you're involving family, that's a different side of things.
"I've had the backing of all players and all people out there. Say all that you want about me but you can't just bring family into it. It is what it is. That's how it just rolled out.
"A game of footy, there's nothing [like being] on a field. If I had the worst dramas going off the field, the best place for myself is on that field.
"At the end of the day no one cares what's happening off the field, no one cares what's doing in your surroundings.
"It's about 80 minutes, and it's about an 80-minute performance on that field.
"That's the main thing around here."
With the series done and dusted, Fifita has urged the NSWRL to re-sign Daley for another year and denied there was any rift between the pair despite the benching allegations.
"There's nothing wrong with me and Loz. I've had him for years now and not just at Origin level but off field I've had him there," he said.
"He's been supportive through everything; he's picked me in Indigenous [All Stars].
"He's always been there, so why's everyone trying to cause something between me and Loz? There's nothing there.
"He's one of those blokes if I had a problem off the field I'd give him a buzz for some advice. At the end of the day I wouldn't try and get something sceptical like there's a big feud between me and Loz.
"I hope he's the NSW coach next year, he's just one of those blokes you want to play for. He's won one series but in saying that I think he's the perfect man for the job."