‘It’s about being yourself at football,’ says livewire tyro Fifita Chris Barrett
September 22, 2010
He’s not in the semi-final team yet, but look out if he makes it, writes Chris Barrett.
Andrew Fifita likes attention. The lanes carved in his hair before he rolled up to the Dally M awards red carpet with his girlfriend Nikkita are testament to that.
So is the outrageous mohawk he sported against Parramatta last month, following a two-try haul the week before. And the fact that, at the Wests Tigers open media session this week, the rookie forward wandered around Concord Oval with the comfort of a senior player, happily accepting interview requests from any member of the NRL fourth estate. What Fifita, 21, is no doubt craving, though, is a little more attention from his coach, Tim Sheens. He has appeared regularly and starred on occasion in his debut first-grade season, but has played only a combined 23 minutes in the Tigers’ finals run, against the Sydney Roosters and Canberra.
Now, when the Tigers face the minor premiers St George Illawarra in the grand-final qualifying blockbuster at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night, he may not get a start. Sheens named his line-up yesterday, playing down injury concerns over halfback Robert Lui, hooker and captain Robbie Farah (both corked quads), Gareth Ellis (back) and Bryce Gibbs (toe) by listing them all.
Fifita, though, had to settle for a place at the bottom of an extended interchange bench of six, with the coach including Keebra Park High product Ben Murdoch-Masila, who has played a solitary NRL game. Murdoch-Masila made his first-grade debut in the Tigers’ heartbreaking golden-point defeat to the Roosters in week one of the play-offs, playing 35 minutes. Fifita, by comparison, had to wait until eight minutes before full-time of normal time to even get on, having jogged relentlessly along the touchline in order to catch the coach’s eye.
‘’ trying to tell him I’m ready,‘’ Fifita said. ''Maybe it’s because it’s my first year in NRL. Bryce Gibbs came back [from injury] and I knew … it was lucky for me to even be in the team. I don’t care if I got one minute on the field.
‘‘My trainers kept going ‘keep warm, keep warm, keep warm’ and then Tim just says ‘go on’. There was about eight minutes to go and I was like ‘Yeah, it’s about time, let’s go’. I was just pumped.’’
Sheens has a low patience threshold for showboating, particularly by the unproven. Several times this year he has refused to compliment Fifita on personal performances after being prompted by journalists, imploring the Blacktown tyro instead to ‘‘keep his head down’’.
‘‘All Sheensy has said is ‘You put that kind of stuff in your hair, you’re like a human target going around’,’’ Fifita said, referring to the mohawk. ‘‘All he kept on saying was ‘back it up, back it up’ the whole week. I said ‘Yeah, fair enough we will’. At the end of the day it’s me … if they want to take me for me. It’s about being yourself at football. That’s how I grew up - even throughout the [under] 20s last year had blond hair.’’
The veteran coach, though, clearly rates Fifita (he has played 21 games) and may still pick him for Saturday. So how does Fifita, a first-year player, feel about being one game away from an NRL grand final?
‘‘Oh, f***! … oh, sorry,’’ he said.
@Eye Of Wests Tigers:
Not sure Sheensy will like what the big man has said here. Hopefully he fires up if he plays on the w.e and backs up that mohawk of his
yeh sheensy is a stubborn fella, i dont think he’s going to like this kinda article. Mes thinks fafita’s chances of playing went from slim to next to impossible. Hope there is not a rift that means he goes to another club the guy is awesome!
watching him in the 20s last season gave me the impression he had a bit of attitude (and not the good kind) but on field this year in the firsts i have been pleasantly surprised by both his play and (apparent) lack of yap. up to now, i had thought i was wrong about him, but im really not a fan of such a young guy making statements and (apparently) seeking the limelight.
benji marshall is the highest profile guy there and even if he has had times he has needed a little ‘guidance’, i dont recall reading about him saying the coach should do this or that.
a bit of confidence is great, but there is a difference between confidence and brashness.
he is only young, but i think this sort of thing will do him no favours -particularly at this stage of his career and sheens seems the last person you want to challenge.
the world of sport is littered with great players who are lost to other clubs due to outside factors and i just dont want him to go down that path: i want him to become the great prop he can be and i want him to do it with the tigers.
maybe the big guy could take a look at the likes of ayshford & dwyer and just let his play do the talking for him.
Sounds like he is just as confused about why Sheens is not playing him as we all are. The way Sheens has treated him of late in terms of game time and him being named 19th man this week is a joke in my opinion. I just hope Fifita doesnt take the bait and go to a club offering more $$ who will actually play him more then 8 minutes in an important match.