AT his lowest point last year, Andrew Fifita felt like the “world’s most hated man’’.
His on-field wristband dedication to one-punch killer and friend Kieran Loveridge stunned the rugby league community, with calls for the prop to be stood down from Cronulla’s NRL finals campaign.
Fifita went on to play an important part in the Sharks’ historic premiership victory, but the off-field drama cost him a possible Clive Churchill Medal, a spot on the Four Nations tour, and an eventual $20,000 fine for his public support of Loveridge.
Fifita said he gave serious thought to rugby, the game he played for most of his life.
But after a conversation with twin brother David, the chance to rewrite the history books by winning back-to-back NRL premierships and World Cup’s with Cronulla and Australia respectfully, as well as an Origin series with NSW, convinced him to remain in rugby league.
“I was the world’s most hated man, but at the end of the day I walked away with a ring, and a premiership to my name. That’s the main thing,’’ Fifita said.
“As soon as the grand final happened, we got away from the game, which was the best thing for my family and I.
“I was in the same situation the year before.
“I felt down because I had put pressure on myself, I wasn’t able to play the last six games (because of abusing a park football referee) and my first game back was a semi-final match.
“For it to happen again like that the next year, I didn’t want to lose. That was the main thing. It lifted my game to another level, playing with a lot of expectation. We got the job done.’’
Fifita watched Luke Lewis awarded the Clive Churchill Medal, a grand final gong most believed he deserved. Had he won the medal, Fifita would have been tempted to pass it on to Mick Ennis, the retiring hooker he praised for helping him get back to his barnstorming best after former Sharks rake Johnny Morris had done likewise during the 2013 season.
Fifita recalled a conversation with brother David, now based in England with Super League team Wakefield, who told him “I want you to stick it out, and you don’t play a game like that in the grand final and then come out of it and walk away from the game. It was a good game to walk away from because you absolutely killed it. In saying that, you move forward’.
“I really want to go back to back in both things _ in winning a grand final and winning a World Cup,” Fifita said. “I was there in 2013, I know the feeling of what it is to win a World Cup.
“I want to be a world champion again and hopefully my footy can do the talking.’’
No team has won successive titles in a unified competition since Brisbane in 1992-1993.
Fifita referred to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady when talking about more titles.
“I liked it when Tom Brady came out (and was asked) ‘which one is your favourite ring?’,’’ Fifita said.
“He’s got a whole handful and he said, ‘the next one’.
“I took something out of that. You get one but you want another one. I’ve got the wedding ring, that ring and some little ‘Sharks 100’ ring. It’s all right, but it’s sitting next to the premiership ring, which is all blingy, and the Sharks one looks like it’s been made in a jailhouse compared to that.”