The ink is barely dry on his new multi-million-dollar NRL contract, but Andrew Fifita has revealed his big plans to play rugby union.
Less than a month after signing a four-year deal reportedly worth more than $3.5 million to join Canterbury from Cronulla next season, making him the highest-paid prop in rugby league history, Fifita says a code switch down the track is inevitable.
The tearaway Kangaroos front-rower, who held discussions with Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie late last year, says it’s not a matter of if, but when he returns to the game he grew up playing – and loving.
In an extraordinary confession, Fifita even said he wished he picked rugby union over league this month such has been the flak he’s copped for leaving the Sharks.
“If I could go back now, I wish I chose rugby and then I wouldn’t be getting all the s*** I’ve been catching now,” Fifita told AAP ahead of his return against Newcastle on Sunday from a two-match suspension for a shoulder charge.
“I grew up playing rugby so it was one of the best things.
“It’s always going to be there and I will eventually go to union.
“It’s another dream and I just want to chase another dream.
“I’ve pretty much got everything in rugby league except a premiership and that’s all I really want, and to win an Origin series.”
A destructive inside centre or No.8, Fifita represented NSW Country in junior rugby union and earned a place in the Brumbies development squad.
“So I had the opportunity to play for the Brumbies or go to Wests Tigers,” he said.
It’s history now that Fifita chose the Tigers, who offloaded him to Cronulla at the end of 2011.
While his “heart’s still in Cronulla and it always will be” and he also admits “I may end up back here in four years’ time”, Fifita says it’s wrong to say the Sharks plucked him out of reserve grade from the Tigers to give him a second shot at the NRL.
“They never got me out of reserve grade,” he said.
“I was playing first grade and then as soon as I signed for the Sharks they (Wests Tigers) put me back to reserve grade.”
Fifita credits the birth of his 15-month-old son Latu Jay – or LJ – for inspiring his meteoric rise to State of Origin and Test star last season.
“I always knew I could potentially go far in football but I never really committed to it, or didn’t want to show it until I had a child,” he said.
“That really gave me an eye opener that life’s too short. I realised that to give my son the best in life and my wife the best in life I had to succeed in football.
“Last year, as soon as I had him, it was the life changer of my world. My eyes lit up and as soon as I saw that training paddock, I was a hundred miles an hour.
“I had to get out there and flog myself and do those extras off the paddock. That’s where it got me last year.
“I can’t say the Sharks made me the player I am. I changed my life to be that player.”