Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma’s bold finals football declaration
Disappointed winger David Nofoaluma has used a private team meeting to deliver his teammates a brutal assessment of another failed Wests Tigers season.
Fatima Kdouh, The Daily Telegraph
September 4, 2020 9:24pm
In-form winger David Nofoaluma says he “deserves to be playing finals footy”, declaring the underperforming Wests Tigers should be sitting “comfortably in the eight” this season.
Arguably the form winger in the NRL, Nofoaluma is a victim of the Tigers’ almost decade-long finals drought.
The club hasn’t finished in the top eight since 2011 meaning that Nofoaluma, who made his debut for the Tigers in 2013, is yet to play a single game of finals football.
“Being here for a while now and not having a taste of finals footy, I definitely deserve to be playing finals footy. I’m just disappointed,” he said.
With only six wins on the board for the season after last weekend’s loss to Penrith, players and coach Michael Maguire held an open but heated team meeting on Monday, details of which were leaked to the media.
During the honesty session, Nofoaluma took the opportunity to express to his teammates the extent of his disappointment of falling short of the finals for the ninth consecutive year.
“I said ‘I‘m sad that with the team that we have, we’re not in finals contention. We should be comfortably in the eight. Not outside it,” he said.
“We have the players and I was just open and honest with how I felt and I just said to the boys ‘let’s just turn up for the rest of the year and play for each other, enjoy every moment together and make it a happy environment’.”
The 26-year-old heads into Saturday’s clash with Manly at Lottoland as the NRL’s leading tryscorer with 14, alongside finals-bound rivals in Cronulla’s Sione Katoa, South Sydney’s Alex Johnston and Penrith’s Stephen Crichton.
According to Fox Sports Lab, the Campbelltown junior leads the NRL with 99 tackle busts, while his 2754 run metres are more than any other winger in the competition.
The Samoan international is also tied for second with Penrith’s Josh Mansour and Sydney Roosters winger Brett Morris with 17 linebreaks, bettered only by Parramatta’s Maika Sivo (18).
But despite doing all he can to drag the Tigers into the finals, he is resigned to watching his rivals next month, only if he can bring himself to actually turn on the television.
“The only thing that hurts is not being able to go into that finals arena … it hurts watching players in other teams be able to play finals,” he said. “I often try not to watch them because it could be me.”
It’s not just the numbers that support Nofoaluma’s claim, departing club great Benji Marshall said Nofoaluma was the only player not to underperform in season 2020.
“As a club we’ve been underperforming. I could put probably all of us in that bracket, maybe bar David Nofoaluma,” Marshall said.
Nofoaluma hopes his individual form has him in line for a State of Origin berth. His Tigers teammates seem to think so. They heckled Nofoaluma with ‘Freddy’ taunts while he was being interviewed for this story.
“They’re geeing me up, they do it every day,” Nofoaluma said.
“I’d love to be in the Origin arena, it looks like an enjoyable environment. It looks tough, and that’s something I base my game around, being tough. It’s definitely on my mind at the moment and it’s been a goal of mine since I started playing footy.”
Given his form, there is no doubt Brad ‘Freddy’ Fittler will be watching Nofoaluma closely today when he takes on the Manly.
The NSW Blues coach is likely to name a larger squad than usual to counteract the impact of COVID-19 on Origin preparations.