A rejuvenated Andrew Fifita believes he’s getting close to the form that earned him selection for NSW and a Rugby League World Cup winners medal in 2013.
Fifita endured a 12 months to forget last year with injury limiting him to just a dozen NRL appearances, leading to him losing his spot in both the Test and NSW sides.
There was also the collapse of a lucrative move to Canterbury and being quizzed by police over his involvement in an alleged road rage incident.
But after recovering from surgery for a broken arm at the end of last year, the former Wests Tigers front-rower has started 2015 strongly.
He’s averaging 149 metres a game – the sixth most in the NRL – behind Sharks teammate Paul Gallen who tops the list with 202.
The 25-year-old rampaged for 146 metres and two tackle busts from 15 carries in the 49 minutes he spent on the field in Sunday’s shock win over the Sydney Roosters and felt he was back to the form he showed in his breakout year.
“I didn’t touch a ball in pre-season because of my arm … but it was a personal thing of mine to get back to where I was,” Fifita said.
“But I found it hard at first and my confidence was only about 85 per cent.
“I am improving every week. Everyone keeps referring back to 2013 but, in that year, it took me a while to get going.
“I am slowly starting to feel I am back at that level and confident the old Fifita will be back.”
The Sharks take on a Newcastle side on Friday who were held scoreless last weekend by St George Illawarra for only the 13th time in their 27-year history.
That result brought Rick Stone’s side firmly back down to earth after four straight wins catapulted them to the top of the NRL ladder.
Stone expects a tough test from a Sharks side packed with experience and in young five-eighth Jack Bird, a player whose confidence is soaring after scoring two tries against the Roosters.
“They have a good forward pack and obviously their back row in Gallen, Wade Graham and Luke Lewis is pretty special,” Stone said.
“They had a couple of really good young players who performed well.
“Bird was really good for them and Valentine Holmes is a player with heaps of potential.”
CRONULLA V NEWCASTLE KEY STATS:
* The Sharks have a poor record against the Knights, winning with just one of their past nine
* The Knights are looking to win their opening three away matches for the first time since 2002
* Cronulla’s win over the Roosters was their sixth since 2010 – their most against any side in that period – but on each occasion, they’ve backed it up with a loss
* Victory for Newcastle will mean Cronulla’s 11th successive home defeat – two away from setting a new record for a club at their regular home venue.