Take one look at the NSW VB Blues’ newest starting prop and you’ll know that he’s no conventional footballer – and that’s because it’s been no conventional path for Andrew Fifita.
Asked about their favourite NSW players growing up, most of the current team gave answers you would expect – the usual names of Johns, Fittler, Buderus and current coach Daley were regularly thrown around – but Fifita came up with something different.
“I never really watched Origin growing up,” the seven-time VB Blues representative admits. “I was more of an outside kid, I guess.
“I just loved to be in the outdoors and wasn’t really too interested in (watching) footy.”
Now a key part of the team to take on Queensland in the series opener, Fifita explains that his first experience of the fixture was when he was playing in it.
“My debut was the first game I ever watched,” Fifita adds. “I couldn’t believe when I ran out there, seeing all the Blatchys Blues – it was an amazing feeling.”
On that occasion, in 2013, Fifita was taken under the wing of Mitchell Pearce, who played Origin alongside current halves partner James Maloney for the first time. Pearce, he says, is a welcome addition to the VB Blues team this year.
"It’s good to have him back, he’s a really good leader,” Fifita says. “I debuted and he was the one that got me into things, so it’s good to give back and help him through the new times now.
“I’m really excited to play with Pearcey.”
As for the man himself, Fifita has reached new heights as a Rugby League player in recent times and having been dropped from both the Kangaroos and VB Blues teams in the past, he knows what’s required to hold onto the position.
“I’ve got my hands on both jerseys at the moment, but I know how it feels to lose those two jerseys,” Fifita says, adding the effect being dropped from the Australian squad had on his game. “It’s already matured me as a player and it's good to have it back.
“Hopefully I can keep going good for the team and I’ll be back in these jerseys.”
The Doonside Roos junior will be prominent in the first period of the game on Wednesday night as he aims to start for the VB Blues for the first time in his career. While he may struggle to identify his most memorable Origin moment of yesteryear, Fifita will be out to make his own in the clash at Suncorp Stadium.