Fittler slams ‘me first’ attitude after Fifita call
BRAD Fittler has aimed a thinly-veiled swipe at Andrew Fifita after the star prop's decision to turn his back on NSW, saying players no longer feel like they "owe the game".
Fifita announced his decision to quit Origin, in favour of continuing his international career with Tonga, on a UFC podcast, a move Blues legend Peter Sterling said he couldn't come to terms with.
And while Fittler was supportive of Fifita's choice to follow his heart in a massive boost for an emerging Pacific nation that broke through for a World Cup semi-final appearance last year, he didn't mince his words when discussing the forum the Cronulla star used to announce the decision.
"I'm not sure all the players, and I don't speak for all of them, so I'm speaking for groups of players, I don't think they have the same feeling that they owe the game," Fittler said on Channel Nine's The Sunday Footy Show.
"They actually went into contractual arrangements and talked about being part of the ownership of the game but I just don't feel like a lot of the players have that, they feel like the game owes them, and that was, when I grew up it was always the club, the team and then yourself.
"That was just something that was driven into you from the first time you stepped foot into your footy club and I'm not sure that's the way these days."
Fifita's decision to turn his back on the Blues comes less than a fortnight after emerging Broncos power forward pledged his allegiance to Tonga without ever having played for NSW.
It continues the incredible momentum of players choosing their heritage over the riches that come with Origin or Test football for the top-tier nations, but Fittler said he had no reason to be concerned about the trend.
"State of Origin's the biggest three games of the year, outside the grand final of course. It holds its own," the Blues' new coach said.
Fifita made his announcement after a long build up, with the premiership-winning front-rower revealing last week that he would reveal his choice on the Halfcast UFC Podcast.
"I've been putting it off for a while now ... but I won't be playing Origin," he said on the podcast, which doesn't usually have a rugby league focus.
"I won't be playing for Australia again and I'm sticking with Tonga."
Fifita added that he had been inspired by 2016 Dally M Player of the Year Jason Taumalolo's decision to turn his back on New Zealand in favour of the Mate Ma'a.
"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 stick with Tonga for the rest of my playing career'," Fifita said.
"I was looking at him saying 'woah'. And everyone went off, cheering and carrying on.
"They all started yelling 'Drew! Drew! Drew!' And I was in a corner, just thinking about Origin, thinking please don't (ask me now).
"And I thought you know what, 'I'm with him too'."