Andrew Fifita during a Kangaroos training session at the AIS in Canberra
Andrew Fifita during a Kangaroos training session at the AIS in Canberra LUKAS COCH

Returning Kangaroo from bully boy to believer

THIS may well be an unfair assessment but Andrew Fifita has always struck me as the classic bully boy.

He's big - 120kg, according to the 2017 NRL Season Guide - and throws that weight around on the field, but not always as a hard-running prop.

His smug attitude, niggling tactics and general lack of discipline have stamped him as one of the most penalised - and disliked - players in the game.

But it isn't just on the field that Fifita seemingly wants to be the standover man. In 2015 he was suspended for six games and fined $30,000 for abusing a junior referee and a year earlier was questioned by police over an alleged road rage incident after being accused of abusing a motorist and kicking his car.

Even last weekend, when a West Tigers fan threw a bottle in the direction of players as they left the field at Leichhardt Oval, Fifita charged at the culprit - obviously keen to dish out his form of retribution. Fifita was quoted as saying the behaviour of the fan was a disgrace - a word often used to describe him.

This is the same Andrew Fifita that last year was fined $20,000 by the NRL for his on-field support for one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge. He wore the letters FKL on a wristband and while he denied they stood for Free Kieran Loveridge, he is yet to declare the meaning.

 

Boyd Cordner (right) greets Andrew Fifita (centre)  at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra
Boyd Cordner (right) greets Andrew Fifita (centre) at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra LUKAS COCH

In a nutshell, that history doesn't exactly paint a favourable picture of Andrew Fifita. Yet tomorrow night he will run onto GIO Stadium in Canberra representing his country - apparently a changed man.

He last played for the Kangaroos during the 2013 World Cup but because of his behaviour, and general demeanour, and the fact he was being investigated by the NRL Integrity Unit at the time, Fifita was overlooked for Mal Meninga's squad for last season's Four Nations tournament in the UK.

As one of the stars of Cronulla's breakthrough grand final win, he was certainly a frontline candidate.

But Meninga, who has been big on culture since he took the reins of the Kangaroos last year, made it abundantly clear he did not want any mugs in his team.

It wasn't difficult to comprehend why Fifita did not tour.

That then raises the question whether Fifita would have been picked for this Trans-Tasman Test had incumbents Matt Scott and Aaron Woods not been injured, Josh Papalii suspended and Shannon Boyd been under an injury cloud?

Fifita maintains he is a changed man and that he has bought into the culture preached by Meninga. And veteran skipper Cameron Smith says he has noticed a change on and off the field - for the better - in Fifita.

But that remains to be seen, and only time will tell.

News Corp Australia


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