NSW prop Andrew Fifita insists it was disrespectful of Gavin Cooper to toss the ball at Matt Moylan and wouldn’t hesitate at running in to protect his playmaker again.
Fifita feared he let his team down when he was sin-binned for starting a minor melee in the second half of Wednesday’s State of Origin III win over Queensland.
Cooper gave Moylan a gobful after trampling over the fill-in five-eighth for a Origin debut try in the second half, lumping the ball on the Penrith skipper’s head in celebration.
Fifita then flew in from almost 35 metres away just to let the Cooper know he didn’t like it.
“I hate seeing it – and everyone else hates seeing it – when a big fella goes at a little halfback. I grew up with `Moyza’ and it’s more of a bond. It’s like a brotherhood between us,” Fifita said post-game.
“Fair enough he scored it, but what he did after wasn’t called for, a bit of disrespect.”
The Cronulla star said he had no regrets racing to stick up for his teammate.
“If I was closer, I would’ve (done) the same thing,” he said.
“He said I got sin-binned because I ran in pretty much 35 metres out. I think I was 45. But I’ve got no regrets in doing it. I would’ve done it for anyone in the team.”
In fact, a proud Fifita described the incident as a throwback to Origin’s halcyon days.
“Even when I was at the bottom of it, it just happens man. I (brought Origin) back a bit,” he said.
“I thought I let the boys down. But in saying that, I come back on and we got the win.”
Cooper said he quickly figured out the culprit, but described the incident as a rite of Origin passage.
“Someone tried to take my head off, put it in a shopping bag and take it home. But it is what it is. I guess it shows what Origin is all about – sticking up for your mate,” he said.
The Maroons failed to take advantage of the extra man during the period, unbeknownst to Fifita, who had no vision of the game in the dressing room.
“I was trying to hear the noises. There was nothing,” he said.
“It was an amp up. When I saw there was no change, the crowd got behind me and I just heard everyone screaming when I ran back. I got back out there and tried to do my job and I made that impact again.”