The big Sharks prop is raring to go again. Image: Tony Feder/Getty Images.
The big Sharks prop is raring to go again. Image: Tony Feder/Getty Images.

Fifita pain free and ready to rumble

FOR days last season Andrew Fifita struggled to walk. His debilitating knee injury had him front former coach Shane Flanagan's office where he told him he could not play on.

But with an already long list of players on the sidelines, Fifita wanted to grit his teeth and play through the pain.

"I was [going to be] out for six to eight weeks when they told me," Fifita said.

"They (the Sharks medical staff) really didn't want me to play and I just said 'back me'. And I got through and kind of just struggled with it all year, playing on one leg, never training, just captain's run, game, captain's run, game.

"It was a long year. Mentally it just broke me down.

"I couldn't walk for the first three days after a game. Just severe bone bruising, no cartilage, it was the toughest injury I've ever had.

"I've had broken arms, had my ankles cleaned out, done ankle surgeries but I felt like this was next level.

"I remember going into Flanno's (Flanagan's) office and saying 'I can't do it anymore'. But just toughening up and getting it done was quite tough. But I got the job done."

Fifita pushed his injured knee to the limit last year. Image: Brett Costello
Fifita pushed his injured knee to the limit last year. Image: Brett Costello

Fifita delayed surgery to represent Tonga in an end of season Test against Australia last year. He had a clean out and stem cells inserted into his knee before Christmas.

The procedures have allowed Fifita to regain full fitness with the Sharks prop shedding six kilograms during the pre-season.

"I didn't think I was that fit but come All-Stars game I was punching out a lot of minutes and then played the first 40 [minutes] in the trial [against Newcastle]," Fifita said. "I wasn't in catch-up mode. I'm in pretty good shape.

"You get injured and [doctors] give you the best advice. [But] if they say eight to 12 weeks [out] I'm thinking let's cut it down. Anything to get in the game.

 

"I love to play football. I get paid very well to play football. It's my childhood dream and I'm living the dream. I'm a competitor, I just love everything [about it]. You saw me I was limping in the games last year. I had food poisoning one game and just had to get on with it. Just spewing through it.

Tonga vs Australia took priority over surgery. Image: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images.
Tonga vs Australia took priority over surgery. Image: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images.

"Something about football just drives me crazy. I don't like watching football, never have and never will. I hate video sessions. I just don't like watching work. For me last year was a very tough year for myself and this year I can't wait to get on with it."

Fifita has been praised by new coach John Morris for his leadership during the off-season. He grew into the role last year when he was suddenly thrust into the captaincy role.

"I just came of age," Fifita said. "Last year I pretty much got thrown in the deep end. I never wanted to be in a leadership group. I'd rather let my actions do the talking and let guys follow. I kind of had to go into captaincy.

"I think the referee's boss gave a really good letter back to Flanno about me being captain and said I was the best captain they'd had in years."