Andrew Fifita: Turned his life around and has earnt his first Origin cap for NSW. Picture: John VeageSIX years after Andrew Fifita was bailed out of jail by his frustrated mother, again, the giant Cronulla Sharks prop gets to represent his state for the first time at Origin level.
Better than being either a ward of the state, a state inmate, and much better than being just another state crime statistic.
Fifita, about to turn 24, admitted he could easily have become a teenage statistic, if he didn’t turn his life around in Sydney’s wild, wild west.
“I was running with some gangs on the streets up around home [Blacktown], and after mum got me out I was told in court that I had to get out of town,” admitted the twin son of an indigenous Australian mother and Tongan father.
“I sort of already realised that if I didn’t leave the streets, I might go to jail for good.”
His is an amazing story. His family encouraged him to move away, and he ended up in Griffith — to grow up, and rehabilitate.
So there the nephew of former St George forward John Fifita lived and breathed country football, finished his HSC, and despite some knockbacks along the way, eventually returned to Sydney with a small contract to play for Wests Tigers, along with twin brother David Fifita (he played lower grade and is now overseas).
Andrew Fifita, the once skinny giant who was told he was too thin by some other clubs, put on weight.
Plenty of it, and soon he ended up in the scrum, alongside the more seasoned and experienced Bryce Gibbs.
Andrew also gladly represented Tonga, and the Aboriginal All Stars, and City, too.
But his promising start with the Tigers in 2010, and into 2011, he couldn’t get a big go in the top Tigers team towards the latter part of 2011.
With salary cap problems in trying to buy Kiwi international and Melbourne Storm forward Adam Blair, the Tigers on-passed Gibbs to the Sharks, who got Fifita as part of the “bargain deal” in 2012.
Today, the Tigers wish they had kept both.
With a partner and their first child born just before Christmas, Andrew Fifita is now one of the biggest impact-forwards in the NRL, averaging more than 170 metres and impressing enough to gain a bench spot in the Blues pack, and alongside team-mates Blues captain Paul Gallen and fellow international, Luke Lewis.
“He’s still a bit of a mad, big kid … but he’s settled down to become one of our very best,” said Lewis of the 196-centimetre, 118-kilogram, prop forward.
“I think he’ll create havoc when he comes on from the bench.”
This time, legal havoc, with those big damaging runs through the rucks.
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