Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan admits the Andrew Fifita saga has disrupted their preparations for Saturday’s NRL minor premiership showdown with Melbourne.
Fifita was this week warned by NSW police for consorting with criminals, and is expected to be hauled in front of the NRL integrity unit over an alleged public show of support for one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge.
“I’m terribly disappointed in the whole situation. But my job as coach is I’ve got to get this team ready to play a game on Saturday night,” Flanagan said on Friday.
Fifita has been spotted displaying the initials FKL on his wristband in at least seven matches this year, according to images highlighted by News Corp Australia.
The revelations come after the Sharks prop was warned by NSW Police on Wednesday for consorting with criminals after he made several visits to Loveridge in Cessnock jail.
Loveridge was responsible for the high-profile manslaughter of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly in 2012 during a night out in Kings Cross, and is serving a minimum 10-year sentence.
The reports suggested Fifita could have once coached Kelly’s killer, and that FKL stands for either “For Kieran Loveridge” or “Free Kieran Loveridge”.
“If that is the case, it’s inappropriate to use any football clothing or accessories to promote an association with criminal activity,” an NRL spokesman said.
Fifita is believed to have attracted the interest of police for the warning after his name came up while they looked into the Lone Wolf bikie gang, which Loveridge is alleged to have links to.
Reformed rugby league bad boy Mark Geyer hit out at Fifita on Friday, accusing him of sticking his support of Loveridge in the Kelly family’s face.
“It’s not good,” Geyer told Triple M’s Grill Team.
“I had a couple of mates who went to jail, I went and visited them. I didn’t stick it in the family’s faces.
“Every week going FKL – c’mon man. A young bloke has passed away.”
Cronulla chief executive Lyall Gorman has refused to comment on the matter until he investigates further.
On Thursday, before the alleged links with Loveridge were revealed, Flanagan said he had spoken to Fifita about the matter.
“Andrew hasn’t been charged with anything, he’s been warned for associating with these people, and he told me, `you didn’t grow up in the western suburbs’.
“A lot of his mates are in jail. That’s the way it is. He won’t desert them, but he understands he can’t contact them.”
Fifita attracted attention last year after he posted images on social media of former Wests Tigers prop Matt Lodge after he was arrested in in New York after he allegedly told two women: “This is the night you die”.
Fifita was also suspended for six matches and fined $30,000 last year over his abuse of a referee at a junior rugby league match.