If, like me, you saw Andrew Fifita’s rather curious press conference last week, you were probably scratching your head.
In some rather veiled attempt to announce his upcoming ‘decision’ in terms of Origin selection versus national allegiance to Tonga, he did anything but and made little sense.
The question around his commitment to New South Wales at the expense of an appearance for Tonga, that plays a Test Match slap bang in the middle of the Origin series, has garnered increasing interest since the Rugby League World Cup.
Tonga shocked everyone and some might suggest, deserved a spot in the final. Fifita was a key player in that success and despite his utterly confusing and illogical linguistics, his effectiveness on-field isn’t in question.
What has been questioned, and rightly so, has been his mental state and the minimal accountability he appears to crave. For Andrew, it all appears to be something of a joke and a comical fiasco within which he has no real responsibilities.
His disrespect for fans, media and the corporates who invest dearly in the game and politely request a response to issues that he himself has engendered, is astonishingly and consistently evident.
The press conference in question saw the members of the media inquire about his stance for the upcoming representative season. A fair question I would have thought and without the ducks and drakes Fifita has played, a question that wouldn’t need asking.
Fifita’s chuckling and flippant response where he referred to some non-descript podcast containing his decision was somewhat bizarre and offensive.
As the journalists pressed him for an indication towards the preference he had made, Fifita giggled like a school kid and deflected their comments with continued reference to the podcast.
It was apparently done with a few of his “UFC mates” and would be available, he said, by the end of the week. Personally, I don’t have any UFC mates and after watching the sport casually, I am not sure that I want any. Yet Andrew Fifita appears to have a few friends in the industry and I hope those bonds are solid as his friends in the NRL are thinning quickly.
What is astonishing is the desire of an NRL player like Fifita, to feed off the massive investment made in the game by private industry such as media organisations, betting agencies and corporate interests, without feeling in any way obliged to return the favour through courtesy, politeness and etiquette.
Personally, I believe Brad Fittler should have struck Fifita off the books months ago and maybe he did. His non-committal approach to the upcoming Origin series has made him few friends and he ruffles rugby league history in the wrong way; a game built on the legacy of men who wanted to compete and compete selflessly.
From the Churchill’s to the Raper’s, Lewis’, Beetsons’ and Lockyers’, the game has thrived on effort within a team environment. The Cronulla prop seems more interested in drawing personal media attention, good or bad, with little concern for the game as a whole.
Fifita appears hell-bent on playing the clown and using ego and bravado as his weapon to disarm the media, all the while presenting a rather unconvincing persona to coach Fittler who must surely see the better options available to him.
In a clear attempt to play one against the other and without a guaranteed Origin birth, Fifita has since declared his loyalty to Tonga and that is fine. However, the arrogance and ego required to position himself in some non-existent bidding war for his services is considerable.
The fabricated ultimatum, and that’s essentially what it was, put Brad Fittler in an unenviable position. A Wayne Bennet or Craig Bellamy would tell Fifita to pack his bags and walk, picking players equally as capable and in better form.
No coach should ever pander to a player who requires his position to be assured or else he threatens to go elsewhere.
My faith in Brad Fittler as the right man for the Blues job is still questionable yet hopeful, and many South of the Tweed will be looking for something different to avoid the Origin disasters that just keep coming.
Essentially, Fifita’s nonsensical press conference means nothing. The Tongan team almost produced a miracle in the World Cup and all credit to them but it is Tonga’s status as a future international powerhouse and Fifita’s potential role in that success, in which he has relevance.
Not in the egocentric game of shadows that displays scant regard for the game that has given him so much.
Andrew Fifita is a wealthy man, blessed with a huge rig, some basic skills and not much else. Burdened with minimal intelligence, a penchant for ill-discipline and the unwillingness to speak openly and honestly, it might be high time the rugby league community decided to treat his kind with the level of respect they deserve.
I watched the podcast and I’m sure the click I gave it will assist Andrew greatly.
However, from a broader perspective and in terms of where we want the game of rugby league to sit in the eyes of the fans, media and corporate interests, it could well do without Andrew Fifita and his self-centred nonsense.