Sharks forward Andrew Fifita has been front and centre in the media in the lead-up to State of Origin game one, with many astute judges predicting his influence off the bench to have a huge bearing on the final result.
Likened to Arthur Beetson by rugby league immortal Bob Fulton in today’s Daily Telegraph, touted as being the best forward in the game in a television interview late last week, the spotlight has shone brightly on Fifita in the lead up to tonight’s game.
A devastating ball runner when at his best, Fifita will hopefully ignore the hype and do his job for NSW as mapped out by Blues coach Laurie Daley.
While acknowledging the media that has been dedicated to his twin brother, David Fifita is confident Andrew will put expectation aside and rise to the challenge at ANZ Stadium tonight.
David is planning to drop by the team hotel and to catch up with Andrew before he boards the NSW team bus to Homebush. He might even offer his twin some brotherly words of advice.
“He’s good, he’s relaxed, he knows what he has to do. If he doesn’t, I’ll tell him what he needs to do,” David laughed. “He won’t read the papers on game day and get caught up in it all, he’ll just do what he’s got to do.”
Following their late afternoon meeting David will then wish Andrew well and head to ANZ himself, with a large contingent of family and friends in tow.
Along with David in the estimated crowd of almost 80,000, will be Andrew’s heavily pregnant wife Nikki and young son Latu-Jay and while all eyes are set to be focused on the field, hopefully someone in the Fifita contingent will be taking regular glances in the direction of Nikki, just in case baby number two decides to make a spectacular entrance on dad’s big night.
Despite the baby having a due date of today, Nikki was still planning to be at ANZ tonight, hopeful more than confident that the new addition would wait at least another day.
“So long as I’m not feeling any pains on the day, I’m still going to go,” Nikki told David Riccio of the Daily Telegraph yesterday. “It could come anytime, there’s been no indication as yet, but who knows.”
But as David jokes, Andrew has been keeping abreast of family developments from afar and relaying instructions from inside the NSW camp.
“He’s told her told not to move. I think she’s been on the lounge for a week,” David revealed Andrew’s advice to Nikki during the past week.
However family matters and frivolity aside, Fifita and his NSW teammates face a monumental task against a Queensland team featuring class players across the paddock.
Despite playing on their home turf the Blues head into the match as underdogs, but as the holders of the Origin shield will be determined to kick off the 2015 series with a game one win.
Fifita will play a vital role for the Blues coming off the bench, with Daley needing the long-striding prop to make an impact once he enters the game.
The match will be the fourth for NSW for Fifita, who played all three games of the 2013 series before being overlooked by Blue’s selectors in 2014.
His form in 2015 however has been impossible to ignore, with his recall to the Origin arena justified.
All at the Sharks wish Andrew well tonight in Origin game one – and wife Nikki an event-free evening watching from the stands.