Shane Flanagan has laid out the challenge to Andrew Fifita, telling the Cronulla battering ram they need more out of him in Saturday’s NRL semi-final against North Queensland.
Fifita has recovered from back spasms which hampered him during the warm-up of last week’s win over South Sydney and prevented him from taking the field for the first 30 minutes.
When he did eventually get on the field, Flanagan admits he had an “off” night and has warned the former NSW Origin bookend he can not afford a repeat and shapes as a vital cog for their do-or-die clash in Townsville.
“(Fifita) was off,” Flanagan said of the Rabbitohs clash.
“He wasn’t happy with his own performance.
“He self-evaluated that pretty quickly and moved on.
“You’re 100 per cent right, the injury in the warm-up did take his focus away of what he had to do and rattled him a little bit.
“He’ll be out there this weekend. We need him to play well if we’re going to win, he’s such an impact player.
“Semi-finals, big games like this, we need Andrew playing at his best.”
Fifita endured a tumultuous lead up to last week’s clash with the Rabbitohs. After serving a six-week club suspension for a confrontation with a Penrith junior referee he battled a calf tear and had to prove his fitness.
Then in the warm up he suffered back spasms with the Sharks starting the game with just three men on their bench.
When he did get out there, he came up with three handling errors and looked out of kilter.
“He got himself so worked up to start the game and come off the bench,” Flanagan said.
“He had a good warm-up and then had another curly thrown up at him.
“It did rattle him. Especially with the conversation going on around him with the medical staff that he wasn’t going to be right, time’s running out, I was putting pressure on the medical staff and it was 20 minutes in and still no answer. And I needed an answer.
“That affected him and he was worried about his back when he went out there.”
Flanagan also confirmed winger Valentine Holmes had recovered from a cork in his leg and will be fit to take on the Cowboys.