Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga revealed that teenage Brisbane forward David Fifita was under consideration for a place in the Oceania Cup Test against Tonga on November 2 after starring in Australia’s 25-12 defeat of New Zealand in the World Cup 9s.
Meninga agreed that Fifita was player of the match after scoring two of Australia’s five tries while rotating in the middle with Wade Graham and Tyson Frizell.
The 19-year-old Broncos second-rower is in the Australian Under 23s team to play France next Friday night in a curtain-raiser to the Kangaroos-Kiwis Test at WIN Stadium but Meninga said he could play the following week against Tonga.
“David Fifita, wow! What an outstanding game for us. He made a difference tonight I thought,” Meninga said.
“He is playing for the Juniors against France so he is not in the first Test against the Kiwis but he may push for the second Test.”
Fifita was a member of the Australian Under 23s team which played at last year’s Commonwealth Championships at Redcliffe, which was an exhibition tournament to push rugby league’s case for inclusion in the Commonwealth Games.
“I like this style of footy. It reminds me a bit of Indigenous footy, with the open spaces,” Fifita said. “It is pretty fast and physical.
“There are only three of us middles - me, Tyson and Wade - so it is only a minute’s break and then you come back on so it is pretty full on. I loved it and I have really enjoyed being in camp with the boys.”
Meninga also praised Graham and Frizell for their workrate, as well as winger Josh Addo-Carr, who scored Australia’s first two tries.
“Every time Josh runs on the footy field he scored a try,” Meninga said.
“I thought Tyson Frizell and Wade were really good as well through the middle. That is what you need to win any type of rugby league.
“I thought we handled the conditions really well, our completions were high, we hung in there defensively, we had to defend back to back sets. I was really happy with our first up effort.”
Meninga said Graham, who started his career as a five-eighth and is now regarded as one of the game’s best back-rowers, was ideally suited for Nines.
“He is smart, that’s why he is in the side,” Meninga said.
“He is tough, he can take the ball up, he can play with the ball, he can kick the ball, he is tackling is exception, he has got great all-round skill and that is why he is in this footy team. He is a great player.”
Asked about the concept, Meninga said the players had enjoyed playing in the carnival-type atmosphere provided by the 12,528 crowd.
“It has been fabulous and the crowd is great, they are getting right into it," Meninga said. "I love the fact that you can stand on the sidelines and watch the team run around, there is a lot of excitement and you get caught up in it."