Sharks veteran Andrew Fifita couldn’t hear the home crowd chanting his name on Saturday night when he crashed over for a try that was eerily similar to the one he scored in the 2016 grand final.
And while he would have loved to have heard the support from the Cronulla faithful, the only support he’s really cared about over the past 12 months has been from his partner who has been there for him after the scariest moment of their lives.
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Fifita suffered a shocking throat injury and spent several days in an induced coma last season, but before he got to the hospital, he messaged his wife telling her that he didn’t think he’d survive.
“That’s why I was a lot more emotional when I went over,” he said of his special celebration.
“It’s been a long time, especially for my missus. What she went through, especially in this round, that’s why it felt way more emotional. I think the excitement got the better of me and I started pointing at her saying, ‘See, you don’t believe me’.
“It did get the better of me.
“It’s Women in League round so I wanted to do this for her, but she didn’t believe me. I told her I was going to go over – I had a feeling – and it came true.”
Saturday’s try was the first time Fifita had scored in the NRL since 2020, and it brought back memories of his legendary four-pointer against the Storm in the 2016 decider.
That one was in the 68th minute, while this one was a few seconds earlier, and it could prove telling for Cronulla’s top-four hopes.
But can you compare them?
“Por favor. That was the best try in the club’s history so it won’t go near it. I’m just grateful to get over the paint,” he said.
It’s been a long road back for Fifita, who doesn’t play the big minutes he used to.
But if he can chime in with big plays in clutch moments, then he looms as a wildcard for their premiership push.
“That was vintage Andrew,” skipper Wade Graham said.
“He’s worked hard and he’s a great character to have around the place with how much care he has for the team and the club.
“When he has energy, the team has energy – not just the team – but the club as well. You heard the crowd after the try chanting his name from him. ”
Those chants were so loud that you would’ve been able to hear them through the TV even if you had it on mute, yet there was one person who missed it.
“I honestly didn’t hear it,” Fifita said.
“Everyone was saying it, but I sh*t you not, I was saying to the boys ‘what do you mean Andrew chant’.
“When you’re out there it’s different, so you can’t really hear the crowd. You hear them roaring, but I didn’t hear it, and that’s what everyone was saying. I came in here and Dale (Finucane) was going ‘Andrew’.
“I’m grateful. At least I’ve left my touch on here, so I’m all good.”
The try caps a difficult couple of years for Fifita, who spent time in reserve grade playing with the Jets but will now need to step up with Royce Hunt likely to miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury.
“I wanted to play, and I’m forever grateful for Newtown because they brought the love of footy back in for me,” he said.
“Playing big minutes and having some fun on the ball, it was just one of those times.
“Did I think I’d get back? I knew I’d get back to the NRL – that was always there – but the thing for me was about getting back after the accident.”