Dominant: Andrew Fifita. Photo: John VeageAndrew Fifita put aside the “toughest” period of his career with arguably his most dominant performance in leading a spirited Cronulla side to a major upset win against South Sydney.
Fifita said he had struggled to focus on the match after being told he would make his NSW debut 24 hours before playing for the Sharks. But when he walked onto Sharks Stadium, he looked like a man possessed, carrying his Cronulla side to an important victory after being named as one of three NSW debutants.
“It was the toughest 48 hours of my career,” Fifita said. “I tried to brush NSW and focus on Cronulla. My main focus was to try and prepare the same way as I do each week.
“Anyone who gets selected for NSW, especially at my age, it comes as a big shock.”
He ran for a game high 200 metres from 23 hit ups and made 43 tackles in an inspired performance after playing near unbroken 65 minutes.
“That’s my job, I’m a front rower,” Fifita said. “My job is to get the ball and run forward.
“I just want to do my own job for NSW. I’m coming off the bench to bring that impact.”
Like he will for NSW in game I, Fifita started from the interchange bench in his team’s two-point win.
His coach, Shane Flanagan, described his team’s performance as “brave”, was more direct with his praise of the front-rower.
“It was typical of Andrew,” Flanagan said. “I spoke with him about really enjoying the next couple of days, celebrating being picked. It’s something special but he put everything aside.
“[The team’s performance] wasn’t technically perfect but it was brave and courageous.”
The top of the table South Sydney side struggled to adjust to the wet conditions. South Sydney coach Michael Maguire was critical of his teams conceding 11 penalties and as many errors.
“We were off the pace,” Maguire said. “We got taught a lesson that every game you need to turn up. We slipped with our defence.
“It’s just about getting bodies in front.
“We are aware of what we need to do.”
Maguire said Queensland back rower Ben Te’o is in no doubt for Origin despite leaving the field late in the first half with a cork to his shin, although he returned midway through the second half. Five-eighth John Sutton is also OK after leaving the field was concussion.
For the Sharks, halfback Jeff Robson left the field late in the game with an ankle sprain but Flanagan did not expect the injury to keep Robson on the sidelines for an extended period.
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