Paul Gallen describes Andrew Fifita as the best forward in the game. And on Thursday night’s evidence you can see why.
Fifita was at his destructive best as Cronulla came from 14-0 down at halftime to defeat North Queensland 18-14 at Southern Cross Group Stadium, with the giant prop dragging his team back into the contest with another powerful display.
The 27-year-old Australian representative produced a performance that is simply becoming normal for him. He ran for 175 metres despite only playing 49 minutes. He made 29 tackles and a line break that set up the try for Chad Townsend midway through the second half that turned the match.
After driving between two Cowboys’ defenders, Fifita somehow held off three more to produce a classy offload for Townsend to scoot 30 metres to score under the posts.
It is what Sharks fans have known about him for some time. While he has his own style and can be frustrating at times, when Fifita is on song, there is not another forward in the competition they would trade him for.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan sang Fifita’s praises after the game while highlighting the need for him to continue to improve and add more consistency.
“That’s what Andrew can do. [We’ve] just got to get him to do it in the first half,” Flanagan said.
“He started really well, Andrew. He had some really sharp feet in the first half and then his second stint was probably his best stint. And we know that’s what he can do.
“Overall he changed the game for us and it was a fantastic effort. Andrew, and probably all the players in our team, are having moments. That resembles the team at the moment. They’re having moments and we’re not working, clicking at the moment. But it’s there and we’re winning footy games, I can’t be too concerned.”
Sharks captain Paul Gallen, who will not be named in Laurie Daley’s NSW team for State of Origin I on Monday night, is certain Fifita will be. And was glowing in his praise of his teammate.
“If he plays [how he did in] the second half in every stint he’s the best forward in the competition,” Gallen said.
“There’s no doubt about that. I thought he was one of the ones trying too hard in the first half and when he went back to that simple footy in the second half and ran hard you can see how good he is.
“If he plays like he did in the second half no one can stop him. We know that.”