Laurie Daley: it should be Tonga or Origin for Fifita
FORMER NSW coach Laurie Daley says there's no way he'd pick Andrew Fifita for State of Origin this year, regardless of his thunderous NRL form.
The Cronulla enforcer sent a selection teaser to new Blues coach Brad Fittler by charging to the top of the Dally M leaderboard with another man-of-the match display in the Sharks' comeback win over Canberra last Sunday.
"If they let me play (games) one and three," Fifita said cheekily when asked if he would reconsider his non-availability for the Blues.
But a selection loophole has highlighted the fact that the tearaway prop is, in fact, available for both Tonga and NSW.
The only trouble is, Tonga plays Samoa in the Pacific Test 24 hours before NSW takes on Queensland in Origin II in Sydney on June 24.
While Fifita isn't actively pushing for NSW selection, his throwaway line has raised concerns for Daley.
"Fifita is only making himself available for games one and three. You can't have a player just making himself available for one and three. You're either in or you are out," Daley told Sky Sports Radio on Thursday.
"I'm not disappointed with Andrew Fifita deciding to play for Tonga. I thought that was terrific for the game. It created plenty of interest and I'd like to see more players pledge their allegiance to those second-tier nations."
But if they do, under current scheduling and eligibility rules, the Origin spectacle will continue to lose star players.
Former Blues prop Glenn Lazarus said the Fifita case rang "alarm bells" to him.
"That's great that he's really passionate about playing for Tonga and let me tell you, Andrew Fifita is probably first picked in my side if his head is on right and he's playing footy," Lazarus told Macquarie Sports Radio.
"(But) if he starts his distractions and so forth, well, I don't want him in the side. He can't be in the NSW side.
"These people who take it for granted that they're playing for NSW, we need 17 men to go out on that field who are just absolutely bursting with pride and bursting with enthusiasm because they've got a Blues jersey on and they just want to rip and tear into those Queenslanders."
Lazarus said the scheduling of the Pacific Test during the Origin series was "ridiculous".
"When the Origin series is on it's all people want to know about, read about and want to watch and want to talk about," he said.
A Test match in the middle of that ... a lot of people aren't going to be too concerned about it, which is a shame because we do need to develop the game."