Suspended Cronulla pair Andrew and David Fifita have apologised to their teammates for dragging the club through yet another off-field scandal.
Less than 24 hours after the Fifita brothers accepted six-game bans for abusing referees at a junior rugby league game last month, the pair fronted the rest of the playing squad prior to Saturday’s clash with North Queensland.
Andrew also copped a hefty $30,000 fine, while both will perform 25 hours of service to junior leagues.
“They addressed the playing group this morning and expressed their apologies to the team and the group of what they’ve brought upon the team,” coach Shane Flanagan said on Friday.
“It’s a good sign, and those two have taken the first steps to identify that they brought a bit of discomfort to the group of having to deal with this.”
Flanagan said he was disappointed to have lost his front-row duo for the final five weeks of the regular season but hoped the punishment would be a turning point for the rugby league community’s attitude towards the game’s officials.
“None of us expect that sort of behaviour and want that sort of behaviour. I really do hope something good comes out of this and there is change,” he said.
“There’s many areas of poor behaviour at junior rugby league and we don’t want to see it.”
Cronulla have been the only team to defeat the Cowboys since round three, coming back from 18 points down at halftime in Townsville to steal a remarkable win.
Andrew Fifita was instrumental in the victory, levelling the game with a trademark try in the second half.
But Flanagan was quick to point out that skipper Paul Gallen was also a notable absentee on that trip and that the team has previously performed well in Fifita’s absence.
“I’ve always pushed the point across this team – it’s always about the squad, not the individuals within the team,” he said.
“Andrew’s out, Gallen’s in and someone else gets an opportunity. Tinarau Arona comes onto our bench and he did a good job last week against the Warriors.”