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Roosters chief stunned by HUGE Fifita backflip but Gus says they've 'dodged a bullet'

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15th May, 2024
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Gold Coast forward David Fifita has backflipped on his decision to join the Roosters on a four-year deal to remain at the Titans in a stunning development in the race for the services of the Maroons star.

The Titans released a statement early on Wednesday to say they had approved his request to activate his player option for the next two seasons. The Roosters subsequently issued a statement of their own to say they had “withdrawn their offer to David Fifita”.

Fifita had informed the club last week that he would be heading to the Roosters next year after deciding to exercise the get-out clauses in his contract related to former coach Justin Holbrook, who is now an assistant at the Tricolours.

He had spoken with Roosters chairman Nick Politis about his move, rejecting a similar offer from premiers Penrith.

“Despite his management making the initial approach to the club and Fifita personally informing the Sydney Roosters’ chairman and head coach of his intent to join the club last Thursday, Fifita has since expressed doubt about his decision,” the Roosters statement said.

“Consequently, the club has elected to withdraw its offer with view that it is in the Roosters’ best interests. The club wishes Fifita all the best.”

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Politis expressed his surprise.

“It is hard to understand,” Politis told the Daily Telegraph. “He approached us. And did the same with Penrith. After coming Sydney to meet with Trent Robinson and the rest of the coaching staff, it’s hard to understand how he can display and create uncertainty.

“We’ve decided withdraw our offer.”

Canterbury general manager Phil Gould chimed in on his Six Tackles with Gus podcast to say “personally, I think the Roosters have dodged a bullet”.

“I don’t think he was going to suit them and I found it a strange signing for them – I’ll stand by that. I’m not saying I don’t think David Fifita is a good player. He is a powerful ball-runner, he’s obviously an impact player and he can certainly win games for you.

“I couldn’t see him, from what I’ve seen of his career, fitting into their work ethic … I don’t understand it. I just haven’t seen it in his career to date.”

When asked why Fifita backflipped, Titans CEO Steve Mitchell said he had done a lot of thinking in the past week about his priorities.

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“These guys have to make big decisions about a short career span,” Mitchell said. “The week gave Dave a chance to actually process where he’ll be and what that means.

“His family is critical to him and that’s a really big part of it.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“His mum and grandmother come to the games and his family engage with all our club events.”

Fifita has ‘Mum and Dad’ written on his wrist each week and when he scores he shows his wrist to the cameras.

Mitchell said that Fifita’s decision was also an endorsement of Titans coach Des Hasler and what he had achieved with the side in the past six weeks.

“Des is excited. This is a critical endorsement of Des’s leadership, in what we are doing and what we are going to become,” he said.

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Fifita has not spoken to the media this season but Mitchell said he would in the coming weeks.

Questions were raised when news broke of Fifita opting to take up a deal worth $850,000 per year at the Roosters when he was already guaranteed a reported $1 million annually at the Titans over the next two seasons.

Fifita will now stick with the original deal he had in place with the Gold Coast and remain part of Hasler’s squad until the end of 2026.

Mitchell revealed the club had not renegotiated a new upgraded offer to their star forward, but added that having options in contracts was “a distraction and something from a best practice point of view you want to move out of”.

“We didn’t want to change the contract. We just wanted to move on and keep the relationship as it was,” Mitchell said.

“I’m extremely grateful for the time and interest shown in me over the past two weeks, but upon further reflection, I have made the decision that I want to remain a Titan beyond 2024,” Fifita said in the Titans statement.

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“I’m excited about the direction the team is taking and being close to home, and my family has been central to helping me make this decision.”

Mitchell says wrapping up off-contract half Kieran Foran is a priority and insists club captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui will remain for the duration of his contract.

“From a game management point of view Kieran has been exceptional in that (No.7) jersey,” Mitchell said.

“We want Kieran with us for as long as we can keep him on the field. From a leadership point of view, on and off field, he has been exceptional for us.

“Moving forward the spine is a crucial position. There are a lot of really developed spine members (in the NRL) that are going to move out over the coming years.

“We are not the only organisation faced with that and expansion will play more of a role in that over the next five years.

“Having Dave is a real priority. Dave for us playing on that edge and with this group, and with Tino coming back into the middle next year, is a big part of our promise about delivering success for the Coast and we are pumped to have him.”

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Fa’asuamaleaui, out of action with a season-ending knee injury, signed a 10-year deal in 2023 but has options in his favour after three seasons. 

The dramatic turn of events with Fifita has enormous ramifications for the Roosters who had reportedly told Sitili Tupouniua he was free to get an early release from his contract next year while fellow second-rower Angus Crichton is off contract and already had his nose out of joint about his rival forward’s impending arrival.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: David Fifita of the Titans looks on during the round four NRL match between Gold Coast Titans and Dolphins at Cbus Super Stadium, on March 30, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

David Fifita. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Crichton had said he is not interested in playing second-fiddle to Fifita.

He has long been linked with a move back to his boyhood game rugby union, though Penrith have more recently emerged as a suitor within the NRL after their failed bid to secure Fifita.

Crichton is considered a strong chance for a NSW State of Origin recall this season amid his resurgent form.

The 28-year-old made the most recent of his 11 Blues appearances in 2022, but has emerged as a viable option for the Blues given Cam Murray’s hip injury.

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His ability to play on either edge or in the middle from the bench looms as an enticing prospect as well.

with AAP

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