Sport: Fifita‘s Origin sacrifice admirable says Tonga coach

The brave decision by Cronulla Sharks prop Andrew Fifita to commit to Tonga over New South Wales is highlighted by the financial sacrifice the player is making, the Tonga rugby league coach says.

New South Wales‘ Andrew Fifita brushes off Queensland defenders. Photo: Photosport

Fifita has followed the Brisbane Bronco‘s forward Tevita Pangai in declaring his allegiance to Tonga rather than making himself available to play State of Origin.

The Mate Ma‘a Tonga is scheduled to play Samoa in a Test match during this year‘s origin series in which Fifita could have added to his 10 New South Wales caps.

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said Fifita and Pangai could have earned about $US23,000 per origin game.

“That‘s certainly not a call that a lot of people, whether they be players or people in general life, would be willing to make,” Woolf said.

“That‘s where I think they deserve enormous credit and says they are playing international footy for the right reasons,” he said.

“They‘re very brave people in that they‘re willing to go against the grain and make personal sacrifice for what they believe in. I think that‘s an exceptional move for them as people.”

The door remained open for players like Australian international Felise Kaufusi to return to the Mate Ma‘a, the coach said.

“That‘s up to Felise. He made a different decision at the World Cup that he wanted to go and play for Australia. That was something that I very much supported because I knew it was what he wanted to do,” Woolf said.

“Guys like him who have played for Tonga before… they‘re always welcome to come back. That‘s something we‘ll never hold against them.”

More Tests against tier one nations would help players commit to Tonga, like a possible match with the Kangaroos that has been touted for this year, Woolf said.

“There‘s till a fair bit of talk about that and it‘s something that a lot of people on both sides want to make happen,” he said.

“Everyone wants to know what those players‘ decisions are going to be, but before they can genuinely commit to Tonga they need to know that there is something for them to commit to. What that something needs to be is games and meaningful games.”