ANDREW Fifita credits his move to Griffith as turning him into one of the NRL’s most damaging ball runners.
The 25-year has gone on to play three State Of Origin games for NSW as well as six Tests for Australia, but doesn’t think any of it would be possible without his time in the Riverina.
“If I look back now I can see if I didn’t come to Griffith it wouldn’t have made me into the player and the person I am today,” Fifita said ahead of Sunday’s City-Country clash.
Moving to Griffith when he was 16, Fifita swiftly moved through the ranks at the Waratahs before leaving the region follow his man of the match performance in the 2010 grand final.
Regularly playing four games a week, under 18s, reserve grade and first grade for the Tigers plus a game of rugby union for the Blacks, his tough initiation hardened him for what was to come.
“I came to Griffith and I ended up putting a bit of weight on and I bloomed from there,” he said.
“Everyone was expecting a normal, average player and I ended up finding my feet there.”
Fifita said he feel in love with the country lifestyle in Griffith and its the place he calls home, even if he’ll line up against Country in Sunday’s game at Equex Centre.
“I love to play back here, it’s close to home and Griffith isn’t that far away,” he said.
He'll have family and friends in the crowd, even though he doesn’t expect to be a fan favourite in the blue and gold of City.
“I have a few family and friends coming out and it’s great to hear them criticising me,” he joked.
“I know I’m going to cop it a bit, but at the end of the day I’m here to play footy and it’s the thing I love.”
The front rower is also looking to inspire the next generation of Riverina’s talented footballers to work hard and follow their dreams.
“These are the grassroots and there is so much hidden talent in Griffith, Wagga and right around the Riverina,” he said.
“I think the main thing is to follow your heart and follow your dream and it can take you places.”
Sunday’s game will be the third time Fifita has played in the City-Country game and he’s looking for a strong performance to launch himself in State Of Origin.
After playing all three games for the Blues in 2013, Fifita struggled with injuries last season but believes he’s back to his best.
“It’s a big game to show Laurie Daley what everyone has got and I think the main thing is to try and get back into the game.
“I would love to get into the sky blue jersey.”
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