ON a rugby league field, NSW Ori­gin for­ward An­drew Fi­fita’s great­est strength is that he of­ten acts, be­fore he thinks.

The run. The step. The fend. The shove. The pass.

Lit­tle thought, just pure in­stinct.

Even his Cronulla and Blues team­mates joke that although they’re stand­ing be­side him in the heat of bat­tle, they have lit­tle clue as to what the 126kg gi­ant might do next.

Off the field Fi­fita is be­gin­ning to think be­fore he acts.

De­scrib­ing the process as the “most painful thing he’s ever done”, Fi­fita, 27, has com­menced the re­moval of an al­most 10-year-old tat­too from his neck.

Why? Be­cause he fears the highly vis­i­ble 10cm-long ink­ing could de­rail his post­foot­ball am­bi­tion.

Study­ing a diploma to be­come a ju­ve­nile jus­tice worker, fo­cused on teenagers with men­tal health is­sues, Fi­fita is also en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to avoid neck tat­toos — even his own fam­ily.

The “For­ever fam­ily” neck tat­too is a tra­di­tion among Fi­fita’s broth­ers and rel­a­tives.

How­ever, de­spite be­ing the same age at which Fi­fita first re­ceived the tat­too, his 18year-old fos­ter brother has been told by the highly rated Blues for­ward to re­sist go­ing ahead with the art­work.

“He’s just turned 18, so like the ma­jor­ity of our fam­ily have at that age, he wants to get it,’’ Fi­fita told The Sun­day

Tele­graph. “I said to him, ‘Just wait and as soon as my neck tat­too is gone, we’ll go to­gether and get it done some­where hid­den’.

“I’m get­ting rid of it. I have to get rid of it be­cause I guess ma­tu­rity takes time to come your way. I’d love to keep it, es­pe­cially be­cause my broth­ers have got the same mes­sage.

“It’s im­por­tant to our fam­ily. No mat­ter what, they al­ways come ‘first’.

“But where I want to work af­ter foot­ball, with trou­bled kids, it’s not a good look. “I’m re­ally fo­cused on that. “I want the kids to look at me se­ri­ously, so that they can take their own lives se­ri­ously.’’

Fi­fita has re­ceived two rounds of treat­ment at Le­ich­hardt’s Van­ish Skin Clinic, his most re­cent visit just days be­fore en­ter­ing NSW camp last Tues­day.

“It’s se­ri­ously a minute of work each ses­sion, but, my good­ness, it’s the most painful minute you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ Fi­fita said.

“It hurts so much more than ac­tu­ally get­ting a tat­too.

“For a tat­too I would sit there all day and get it. They hurt, but this is an­other level.

“I sup­pose it shows how much I want to make sure I give my­self ev­ery op­por­tu­nity af­ter foot­ball.’’

It’s clear that ahead of be­com­ing a fa­ther for a third time with wife Nikki, Fi­fita, who doesn’t shy from the fact that he’s had his off-field is­sues in the past, is mak­ing gi­ant steps off the field.

And, un­de­ni­ably, help­ing his foot­ball.

For ex­am­ple, a visit to the Ron­ald McDon­ald fa­cil­ity at the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal last Mon­day to visit a sick young boy was how Fi­fita’s Ori­gin build-up be­gan. “I’ve said it be­fore, you’ve got to give to get,’’ Fi­fita said. “I be­lieve in what you give, you’ll get even more back.’’

On Wed­nes­day night, Fi­fita and ev­ery NSW sup­porter only want one thing — vic­tory over Queens­land, the sec­ond Ori­gin se­ries win in 12 years.

“Un­like a tat­too, those are mem­o­ries you could never erase,’’ Fi­fita said.


AF­TER An­drew Fi­fita, his wife Nikki and their kids on In­sta­gram. ‘For­ever fam­ily’ tat­too be­ing re­moved. DUR­ING


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