All eyes in rugby league are on whether the ARL Commission will rubber-stamp the selection of polarising Cronulla hero Andrew Fifita when the Kangaroos name their Four Nations squad on Monday.
Fifita will forever be remembered as the man who delivered the Sharks their maiden NRL premiership after powering over for the match-winning try in Sunday’s thrilling grand final win.
He was controversially overlooked for the prestigious Clive Churchill medal despite finishing the night against Melbourne with 191 metres from 23 carries, 11 tackle busts and 30 tackles.
But the only statistic that mattered was the clutch four points he came up with after rival front-rower and New Zealand international Jesse Bromwich got the Storm back into the contest.
“To be in this squad that won the first ever grand final for the Cronulla Sharks and to score the last try is just amazing,. I have my ring now,” Fifita said post-game.
“I’m stoked we have created history and at the end of the day I had the final say.”
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said Fifita made it a personal mission to take it to Bromwich.
“The opposition front-rower Jesse Bromwich is one of the best front-rowers in the game. Andrew knew he had to stand up against him,” he said.
“When (Bromwich) did score the try I think Andrew said, ‘Well, I’ve got to do something about it’. And he went up the other end of the field and did something about it.”
However, mystery surrounds Fifita’s possible selection for Australia given the NRL has yet to decide whether to punish the Sharks star for his support of one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge.
The league’s integrity unit’s investigation has dithered for more than six weeks.
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga recently admitted he was unsure whether Fifita would be available for selection, as were Flanagan and Fifita himself.
“I haven’t even thought about it. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Fifita said.
“I’ve never let that jersey down. I played in all six games at the World Cup and never let the team down. To get an Australian jersey back would be a massive honour.”
Flanagan also nominated skipper Paul Gallen to be retained after his man-of-the-match effort for the Kangaroos last-start, as well as courageous centre Jack Bird.
Bird played the entire grand final despite picking up a suspected broken arm in the first half. James Maloney and Wade Graham could also earn higher honours.
“I know Gal would love to be going, he’s got plenty of pride in the jersey,” Flanagan said.
“We don’t know what’s wrong with (Bird’s) arm but he hurt it pretty badly and probably should’ve come off. He’s a chance. Whether they pick Andrew or not – Andrew’s got to deal with some other things but he’s definitely good enough on football ability.”
For Melbourne, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smithe are certainties, and Will Chambers could be a bolter after earning special praise from coach Craig Bellamy post-game.