Cronulla star Andrew Fifita could still face sanction from the NRL despite denying the initials FKL on his strapping this year are in support of one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge.
Fifita will be hauled in front of the NRL integrity unit next week over an alleged public show of support for Loveridge, displaying the initials FKL on his strapping in at least seven NRL games this year.
The revelations come after the Sharks prop was this week warned by NSW police for consorting with criminals after he made several visits to Loveridge in Cessnock jail.
The Sharks and Fifita released a statement on Friday afternoon confirming that police had visited Fifita and told him to cease contact with Loveridge due to his links to criminal elements.
“Both the club and Andrew are totally aligned with the police and the NRL in wishing to protect the game from criminal infiltration and Andrew is fully aware of the need for him to accept the directions given to him,” the statement read.
“In relation to assertions that letters worn by Andrew on his armband earlier in the season in any way refer to Loveridge being freed, the player vehemently denies them.”
NRL boss Todd Greenberg said the governing body would further investigate what the initials stand for.
“Clearly it is inappropriate to use any club clothing or accessories to support someone with a criminal conviction,” he said.
“Players are generally free to support any person or cause they like. But in circumstances such as these, they cannot use our game as a platform to do that.”
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said it is hard to monitor what players write on their strapping tape, and was upset with how the drama has affected preparations for their minor premiership showdown with Melbourne.
He confirmed Fifita would be a certain starter against the Storm.
A win for the Sharks would give them the J.J. Giltinan shield and $100,000 in prizemoney, while a loss could set them back as far as third and a possible week one final against Canberra in the nation’s capital.
“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,” he said on Friday.
“Players usually get crosses for their religious beliefs, or halves have got their special plays that they want to have on there.
“I know (Sharks captain Paul Gallen) had a sick kid who actually passed away recently written on his arm. We see the (Newcastle halfback Trent) Hodkinson writing some kids’ names on kicking tees.”
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.
Reports in The Daily Telegraph suggested Fifita could have once coached Kelly’s killer, and that FKL stands for either “For Kieran Loveridge” or “Free Kieran Loveridge”.