Andrew Fifita won’t be fazed by the ongoing fallout from the NSW State of Origin series loss as he aims to propel Cronulla’s NRL premiership defence, according to coach Shane Flanagan.
The Sharks have enjoyed their first full week without Origin distractions in two months ahead of Friday night’ clash with South Sydney, as they try to fight back into the top four.
Cronulla’s five Origin representatives were the equal highest of any club besides Melbourne, as they went three-from-six throughout the period.
Flanagan is confident the five have overcome the representative hangover, including Fifita, whose proposed move to the NSW bench has been one of the talking points after the decider.
But the Sharks’ coach said he didn’t expect the fallout from the series to impact on the prop, who became a father last week for the third time.
“I’d hope (it spurs him on),” Flanagan said.
“He needed to get that Origin over and done with and his wife having the baby. He’s in a good headspace now.”
Fifita was cleared on Thursday in a NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) statement, after claims earlier in the week that he had argued with Blues coach Laurie Daley’s original plan to start him from the bench.
The NSWRL said such a conversation had never taken place between Daley and Fifita. Sharks teammates have also defended the prop’s version of events this week.
And Flanagan, a former NSW assistant coach, said it had been unfair to pin part of the Blues’ culture issues on the apparent episode.
“There has been (a lot of talk) – probably a little bit unwarranted, maybe,” Flanagan said.
“Obviously, Andrew has said he didn’t know too much about it.
“The talk post-Origin has got nothing to do with Andrew. He just needs to get his head back into Cronulla – which he will – and do what he needs to do here for the rest of the year.”
Flanagan said he had felt a fresh start around training this week, before James Maloney was the last of the Origin players to return on Thursday.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said.
“Jimmy had a couple of days off and he came back and was nice and fast today which was good.
“We’ve got to treat it as a new competition now.”