David Fifita’s commitment to play despite family crisis underlines Wakefield Trinity’s united front
Barnstorming Fifita, 32, scored a try and caused Warrington Wolves all sorts of problems as Trinity – playing for the first time since head coach Chris Chester was sacked – won 28-22 in Super League on Sunday.
However, his impressive display came in the wake of his sibling’s horror injury on the other side of the world.
Former Australia front-row Andrew Fifita was placed in an induced coma after being hit in the throat during Cronulla Sharks’ 16-14 NRL loss to Newcastle Knights.
Just hours before Trinity kicked off, it emerged he had reported difficulty swallowing and, around 20 minutes after the Sharks game had ended in Queensland, he was examined outside of the dressing rooms before being taken to hospital and placed in intensive care.
Stand-off Miller told The Yorkshire Post: “I’m not sure of all the details. But Dave did come close to missing the match.
“We all wish his brother well. We’re all thinking of him and hope he makes a full recovery.”
Cronulla later reported that Fifita had suffered a laryngeal fracture, remained in an induced coma but was in a stable condition ahead of surgery on Tuesday.
It is expected he will recover in hospital for an “extended period.”
On Fifita’s towering performance against Warrington, which helped Trinity end a five-game losing run, fellow Australian Miller said: “When he’s on, he’s one of the best forwards in the comp’.
“We need him to be at his best. When he is, it’s so much easier for us and we need him playing like that to do our job.
“He’s scored three tries in his last three games as well now.”
Trinity’s props had come in for criticism from Chester following the previous Sunday’s 22-18 loss at Huddersfield Giants.
But Fifita certainly responded; Warrington could not contain his power as he made four tackle busts, three offloads and cut through them for a try with only his second touch off the bench as Trinity built up a 20-0 advantage.
Assistant Willie Poching took charge following Chester’s dismissal last Tuesday and Miller was pleased the squad were able to deliver one of their best displays of the campaign.
“It was just nice to see some good come out of a bad and difficult week,” he said.
“It was a shame we didn’t finish off what we’d started in that first 15 minutes the week before. A lot of people were disappointed (by Chester’s sacking). Chez had been there six years and he’d turned that place around from what it was when he first got there.
“There’s always two different reactions but a lot of people were disappointed. But Willie told us just to go and enjoy ourselves and show a bit of heart and grit, which had probably been missing. It was kind of a reset button for everyone. That was his message. It’s frustrating we’ve not played like that more often this season but it’s also encouraging that we could show what we did against probably the in-form team in the competition.”
That said, three tries in just five minutes late on threatened to see Wolves pull off a fightback which would have even eclipsed their hosts’ collapse at Huddersfield.
“I was thinking ‘you can’t do this again, surely!’” conceded Miller.
“Even though Warrington scored though, they were full length-of-the-field tries.
“I knew if we could get the ball back and get back in the arm wrestle we’d be fine and we were.”
Trinity visit Castleford Tigers on Saturday evening in ‘Rivals Round’.
They have lost their last 15 meetings against Castleford but Miller insisted: “The more you lose, the closer you are to a win and we’ve certainly lost a few.
“It’s going to be hard. We have to show up with the right attitude again to give ourselves the best chance of success. We’ll take plenty from Sunday and we are looking forward to it.”