A phone call from twin brother David about the impact of the NRL’s rule changes convinced Andrew Fifita to shed 20kg in a bid to get his weight under 120kg before the start of the Telstra Premiership.
The Cronulla prop, who has declared himself fit for the Indigenous All Stars, ballooned to 137kg during the off-season but David’s advice after experiencing a season with no scrums in Super League last year made him realise he would need to be much lighter than his usual playing weight of 128kg.
While NRL matches will still feature scrums, there will be fewer as three rule changes announced last December involve replacing scrums or penalties with a play-the-ball to reduce stoppages and speed up the game.
Big forwards are likely to fatigue quicker with the ball in play for longer and Fifita plans to be at his lightest playing weight since his junior level, when he played centre or fullback.
"I think the best thing for me was a phone call from my brother," Fifita said of twin David, who plays for Wakefield in the Super League.
"He played the rules that we are playing under now and he just said ‘we need to go down to under 120kg’. He said it’s really fast, it’s different.
"I said what about when they kick out and he said it is straight on, it’s play on, and I was like ‘wow’."
Remarkably, the 31-year-old said he dropped eight kilos in four days before the resumption of pre-season training last November by fasting and undergoing intense training with a garbage bag wrapped around his waist in hot temperatures at Griffith.
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"I didn’t want to jump on the scale and show the boys I was a fat mess," Fifita said. "I never realised how heavy I was.
"I feel like because we couldn’t leave the state I'd done a lot of leg weights and that kind of got me up to 130kg.
"Then, from travelling the whole [NSW] North Coast, with no proper feeds – just fast food – I think that got me up to 137kg. That’s the heaviest I’ve ever been.
"When I realised, I grabbed my little brother and said ‘I need to lose weight’. We did boxing and I lost 8kg in four days because I had to.
"I know when I have put on too much weight so I went to Griffith and luckily there was a heatwave down there. It was like 40 degrees every day. I put a garbage bag under my jumper and just started slugging it out for an hour every day.
"I didn’t eat, I was on a juice diet until the night time. I have dropped 15kg and I still have 5kg to go. I played at 128kg last year but I want to get to 118kg so it is going to a be a bit different."
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After managing just 12 games during an injury-plagued 2020 season, Fifita is feeling fit and said he had fully recovered from a leg injury suffered while training to play for the Coastal Sharks in the end-of-season Tribal League tournament at Campbelltown.
"I played one game with the Coastal team and then I just felt tired and wanted to put the club first. I didn’t get injured," he said.
"We were in the finals the following week and I was training with Sione Katoa and Brit [Nikora], we did a conditioning session and the last set we came down and then I got shot.
"I said to the boys, ‘oh no, I’m done’. But I was quite heavy back then and never realised.
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"This is the first full pre-season I have done since 2012, I reckon, and it's been tough but good."
After missing last year's All Stars match due to injury, Fifita said he was looking forward to playing for the Indigenous team in the February 20 clash at Townsville's QCB Stadium.
"I can't wait," he said. "Hopefully I am selected and hopefully I can assert my authority and show how good my pre-season has been."