Sharks fans were chanting his name after scoring a vital try in Saturday night’s golden point victory against South Sydney but Andrew Fifita didn’t hear them.
Instead, the Cronulla veteran was thinking of a pre-match promise he’d made to his wife Nikkita.
“With it being Women In League round, I said I would score a try for her but she didn’t believe me,” Fifita said. “I knew I was going to get over, I just had a feeling, and it came true.”
The 68th minute try that put the Sharks ahead 20-14 was Fifita’s first for more than two years and to score in Women In League round held special significance for the Tonga international.
It is less than 12 months since the 33-year-old was placed in an induced coma after being rushed to hospital with a laryngeal fracture.
Fearing the worst, Fifita sent a text message to Nikita from the back of the ambulance to say goodbye.
Fifita at his damaging best!
He was in a coma for five days after undergoing emergency surgery and there were genuine concerns about whether he would survive – let alone play in the NRL again.
“That is why there was a lot of emotion when I went over,” Fifita explained. “It has been a long time, and especially for my missus and what she went through - especially [to score] in this round.
“I think the excitement got the better of me and I started pointing, saying ‘see, you don’t believe me’. Then I turned and the boys came sprinting in.”
Fifita leads Sipi Tau
As he sprung to his feet after charging through four Rabbitohs defenders to score, Fifita cupped his hand to his ear and pointed to his family in the crowd.
Sharks fans then began chanting, “Andrew, Andrew, Andrew”, as he halfback Nicho Hines lined up the conversion attempt, but Fifita insisted he didn’t hear them.
“I honestly didn’t hear it. I was saying to the boys, ‘What do you mean Andrew chant?’ When you get out there it’s different,” he said. “I’m grateful. At least I’ve left my touch on here.”
New Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon has been able to get the best out of Fifita, who
“I’ve loved working with him,” Fitzgibbon said. “One thing I find with Andrew is be honest with him in what you expect from him.
“He was off to a slow start for his pre-season. He had that throat injury and that’s something you can’t just turn up and forget about it.
"He had to go through a real process there of, ‘Do I want to do this? Can I do this?’ He’s so infectious and he cares so much. He’s a special guy.”
Cronulla captain Wade Graham, who played alongside Fifita in the club’s 2016 premiership winning team, compared his try to the one he scored in their historic grand final triumph.
Looking back at the 2016 grand final
“It was an awesome moment for him. It was vintage Andrew,” Graham said. “He got the offload, broke the tackle, slipped through and reached out with one arm to put it down.
“He is a great character to have around the place, with how much care he has for the team and the club. It is so important for us and when he has energy like that, the whole club - not just the team - has energy.
“You heard the crowd chanting his name so he has worked hard and he has continued to plug away so it is good to see him get a moment like that.”