Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan admits polarising figure Andrew Fifita has some “issues” he needs to deal with and says the NRL club needs to closely monitor his welfare.
Fifita will be remembered as the player who delivered the Sharks their first premiership after scoring the match-winning try in Sunday’s grand final win over Melbourne.
But while the Cronulla prop basked in grand final glory on Monday, he remains the subject of the NRL integrity unit’s investigation over his support of one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge.
Flanagan was quick to praise his charge for the way he handled the saga since it broke six weeks ago, but admitted fearing for Fifita’s welfare without the support of his teammates.
“Andrew’s pretty resilient when he gets into this group, the football group. They look after him,” Flanagan said.
“But it must be hard for him when he’s away from us, without the support of the playing group. We need to look after him because there are some issues there. The media does affect him.
“He’s a tough, resilient kid. He’s made some bad decisions but he knows that.”
Fifita’s public show of support for Loveridge could cost him a spot in the Kangaroos squad for their Four Nations tour in England later this month when it gets named on Tuesday.
Twin brother David, who returned from the Super League to watch Andrew at ANZ Stadium, said it would be a shame if Australia failed to select the in-form prop for the game.
Fifita was controversially overlooked for the Clive Churchill medal as best afield despite tallying 191 metres from 23 carries, 11 tackle busts and 30 tackles.
“I’m sure after that performance, going through the whole semis, and round 26 when he versed the Storm down there, he’s the best prop going around,” David said.
“I don’t want to be biased or put anyone to shame, but they seen it tonight. You’ve got the Kiwis captain there, he’s the prop and he just put him on show tonight.
“With Kieran, I don’t support what he did. We didn’t like it at first but we can’t let a mate go down in the dumps. It’d be a shame if Andrew missed out because of that.”