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Leading man to bench: Numbers behind Fifita's lean patch

David Fifita was the NRL's most dominant player to start the year with his form rated as highly as anyone but his recent lean patch has divided opinions on his effectiveness in more ways than one.

The 21-year-old is back in the spotlight after his quietest performance of the year against competition leaders Melbourne last weekend.

Fifita remains on track to complete the most dominant club season of his young Telstra Premiership career but his second half of the year has been much more underwhelming compared to his blistering start. 

Every individual performance is carefully analysed and criticised by the public but none more so than players earning big money with Fifita subject to greater scrutiny given his defection from the Broncos on a multimillion-dollar three-year deal.

The Indigenous All Star has already eclipsed several statistical areas from his combined three seasons at the Broncos (44 games) in just 19 matches at the Titans.

He started his Gold Coast career in barnstorming fashion with nine tries in seven games but hasn't been able to keep up his match-winning form in recent months to coincide with being benched by Justin Holbrook.

Holbrook has tinkered with Fifita's minutes in his first year coaching the Maroons representative and since the State of Origin period, his impact has suffered as a result. Stats crunched the numbers on Fifita's maiden season on the Gold Coast which started with a 76.4 minute per game in his first 10 outings.

That figure has dropped significantly to 57.9 in the past nine matches when Fifita made a return from suspension via the bench in round 14.

Holbrook has benched Fifita a further five times since then, including for Thursday night's clash against the Knights in a decisive game that will have a bearing on the side's finals chances this season.

Fifita's numbers, naturally, dip with fewer minutes and a decreased workload but his biggest criticism recently has been his lack of involvement against heavyweight sides Melbourne and South Sydney.

He ran for 61 metres against the Storm in a season-low while the Rabbitohs clash he wasn't much better with 77 metres.

Another top-four side at the time, Parramatta, held Fifita to a quiet 67 metres in round 18.

The same occurred in the Origin series with Fifita well contained by NSW. 

Campbell going for Gold with new Titans deal

His tackle-breaking ability also dried up with just two in a fortnight, compared to 27 in three games against struggling sides St George Illawarra, Canterbury and the Cowboys in the previous month.

His recent form drew criticism via champion Storm hooker Cameron Smith earlier this week while Matthew Johns also weighed in, leaving Titans co-captain Jamal Fogarty to defend Fifita's form on Monday.

Holbrook told the media on Wednesday that his marquee player was "motivated" to put in big performances in the next fortnight to get the Titans into the finals.

Knights v Titans - Round 24

Fifita was a menace against Newcastle in their recent clash with a hat-trick and 168 metres.

"Last week was hard with a couple of niggling injuries into a short turnaround and I started him as well," Holbrook said.

"This week we'll get him powerful when coming off the bench for us. I've said all along we don't need him to play 80 minutes for us.

"We want him to come on and do his job. We've faced the pressure for a few weeks now.

"We're back in the same position we were five weeks ago. We've got two games to go and have to win them. It's an exciting part of the year."

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