BY S.J. ALEXANDER
Australian representative and Sharks destroyer Andrew Fifita is set to become the highest-paid prop forward in Rugby League’s 108 year history. Fifita, one of the most talked about talents in the modern game, is set to join the Canterbury Bulldogs for an astonishing $850,000 a season, The Australian reported today.
Dwindling away in reserve grade at the Tigers, Fifita was given his chance at the Sharks and hasn’t looked back. Using his huge 194cm, 116kg frame Fifita has been able to consistently produce barn-storming runs and crunching tackles and also has the ability to change the momentum for his team. His huge impact on the playing field, not just for the Sharks but for NSW and Australia, has made him one of the hottest properties on the market. It’s not just rival NRL clubs chasing his signature, but also cross-code clubs in the prestigious Super 15 Rugby competition.
Hoping that Fifita would return their loyalty, the Sharks offered him a contract that was worth only $50,000 less than the Bulldogs offered. Sharks Captain Paul Gallen said: “We put effort into him, He’s a great player and he’s played his best football here.” Gallen also conceded that it was up to Fifita where he wanted to go. “It’s part of the game these days, it’s a business.”
With Fifita, the Bulldogs front row will look as intimidating and damaging as ever, with the likes of other internationals James Graham and Sam Kasiano included in their line-up. Fifita will bring added strength, experience, and all those extra metres out on the park to the Bulldogs, and in a game where the Rabbitohs have shown that forwards are more valuable than ever, Fifita could help shape the Bulldogs into a premiership outfit.
Although the loss of Fifita will leave a large hole in the Sharks stock of forwards, it will free-up a huge amount of space in their salary cap, and partnered with Gallen’s versatility in being able to play in the front row or lock the Sharks could make a big name signing very soon.
Sharks teammate Beau Ryan hinted at the fact that Fifita was on his way out of the club, tweeting: “This time next year @andrewfifita will have more money than the Commonwealth Bank #goodonhim #richyrich.” This won’t be the first time the Bulldogs have thrown a large chunk of their salary at a promising forward, with the club spending $600,000 a year on Tony Williams, who certainly has not lived up to his price tag. Williams’ struggles on the field led spectators to brand him “lazy” and see him as yet another flop. Footy guru Matthew Johns disagreed however, writing in his Daily Telegraph column: “Lazy? Uninterested? Unfit? No. Tony Williams is lost. The Bulldogs’ structure relies on intricate passing movements from set field positions and, after watching Tony’s last two outings, it’s clear to me he just can’t find his place.”
Watching Williams’ struggles will only place pressure on Fifita if he makes the move, and with a salary that will land him in the same pay bracket as superstars Greg Inglis and Jonathon Thurston, Fifita will begin his Bulldogs career with extremely high expectations. But will Fifita have the same impact as these other dynamic playmakers earning relatively the same income? After pen is put to paper we will only find out whether Fifita will continue his brilliant form, or become another big money flop.