Fifita to join Tonga
2 April, 2018, 12:00 am
A stunning dressing-room promise from Tongan World Cup hero Jason Taumalolo has led to Cronulla Sharks enforcer Andrew Fifita turning his back on the Holden State of Origin arena and commit to the island nation.
In a huge boost for international rugby league and Tonga’s rapid development as a challenger to the game’s traditional heavyweights, Fifita has revealed a pact instigated by Taumalolo after last year’s surprise World Cup finals charge convinced him to rule himself out of Australian and NSW Blues contention.
Fifita said he and Taumalolo had reaffirmed their commitment to the Mata Ma’u during a meeting with Tonga coach Kristian Woolf in North Queensland before last month’s round-one clash between the Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys.
He said Sydney Roosters forward Sio Siua Taukieaho, Parramatta Eels pair Michael Jennings and Manu Ma’u had also pledged their allegiances to Tonga, along with in-form Brisbane Broncos prop Tevita Pangai junior.
The Sharks prop was considered to be sliding down the pecking order for NSW, after not being invited to a gathering of Blues players earlier this year but is still walking away from potentially lucrative pay-days given the $30,000 match payments for each Origin game and $20,000 for a Kangaroos Test.
Speaking on the Halfcast Podcast, Fifita confirmed his allegiance to Tonga and told of Taumalolo’s seismic declaration in the aftermath of a last-gasp semi-final loss to England last November.
“It was pretty much straight after the game, that Jason Taumalolo stood up,” Fifita said. “He said ‘I’ve got something to say’ and it was pretty much along the lines of ‘we went so well, I’m going to retire my jersey and stick with Tonga for the rest of my playing career’.
“Everyone went off, they were throwing things … and they all started yelling ‘Drew! Drew! Drew!’ I was in a corner, just thinking about Origin, thinking please don’t . And I thought you know what, ‘I’m with him too’.
“And from there it went around to pretty much every team member. It went from me to Jenko (Jennings), to Siua , to Manu (Ma’u). All the people that could play for another team had to say something and everyone was sticking loyal.