Fijian international Viliame Kikau expects Titans forward David Fifita to settle back into the second row for Friday night’s clash at Cbus Super Stadium after playing in the centres last week.
Kikau will be tasked with marking Fifita for the fourth time in his NRL career as the Panthers look to keep their undefeated winning streak alive against a struggling Titans outfit.
Fifita missed last year’s corresponding clash between the two sides with the Panthers running away with a commanding 48-12 win in Magic Round.
“I watch a lot of games to see how they play and he does incredible things on the field,” Kikau told NRL.com.
“When he plays well the Titans are hard to stop. He has shown that the last few years. Those sort of players you have to try and limit their impact on a game.
“It will be a good match up to test where I’m at. It’s a short turnaround for us and our first trip to Queensland for the season.”
Fifita the human highlight reel
Kikau said Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was pleased with the side’s ability to “suffocate” the Raiders last start with the premiers not allowing the Green Machine into their own half the entire second half.
“We executed what we wanted to do, especially the second half it’s what we’ve been lacking to start the season so the coach was really happy,” he said.
“We’re focused on just closing out games, especially when you’re winning. You see some teams lead and then slack off.
“It might be OK now but later in the season it could be the difference, it’s very hard to change momentum if a team comes back late.
“We put our foot on the throat there and wanted to maintain that and suffocate them which was what we did.”
Kikau also had praise for Panthers teammate Stephen Crichton, who crossed for his first career hat-trick last week and right in front of the eyes of NSW coach Brad Fittler, who was doing sideline commentary.
With Latrell Mitchell in doubt for Origin I due to a hamstring injury, the calls for Crichton to be part of the Blues’ side in 2022 are growing louder with every performance.
“A lot of people remind me about it but try not to get ahead of myself,” Crichton said.
“I keep it in the back of my head but I want to play consistent footy at Penrith.”
Crichton was part of the Blues’ 2020 campaign when the squad was forced into a three-week lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crichton scores a hat-trick
While he didn’t a game, along with Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen he gained valuable experience.
“It was one of the best experiences other than the grand final, being in the camp around the most professional boys in the second team highest to Australia,” he said.
“Just the professionalism I saw the older boys, extra stretching, ice bath, swimming and breath work.
“It’s little things I’ve taken into my own game and I think it’s benefited myself and my game as well preparing into game day.”