Side-step to re­demp­tion

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - OPINION OURS & YOURS -

WE do love a tale of re­demp­tion. An­drew Fi­fita’s story, if he is gen­uine, could be a cracker.

This is a bloke who has re­peat­edly chal­lenged for the ti­tle of NRL’s Great­est Wally.

He was fined $20,000 for wear­ing wrist­bands declar­ing FKL, for Free (or For) one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge, dur­ing games, and fined $30,000 for telling a junior ref­eree: “I’ll smash you.”

When cen­sured, he failed to demon­strate any real re­morse, say­ing he had only been act­ing as a “loyal mate” to Loveridge, and on the ref­eree in­ci­dent he said: “I will be pro­vid­ing apolo­gies to the match of­fi­cials in­volved in the game. I re­spect the role of match of­fi­cials. I’ll be join­ing them, with a whis­tle in my mouth, at some junior games in the Shire. Although that’s part of my pun­ish­ment, I’m look­ing for­ward to the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Those don’t sound like words writ­ten by Fi­fita him­self, and they don’t sound par­tic­u­larly con­trite.

Fi­fita’s con­duct on both oc­ca­sions was dis­grace­ful, and an em­bar­rass­ment to every­one who loves rugby league for its trans­for­ma­tive power.

Ear­lier this year for­mer NRL star Reni Maitua told The Sun­day Tele­graph he was spend­ing a small for­tune hav­ing sev­eral tat­toos re­moved, be­cause he was hav­ing trou­ble find­ing work.

Fi­fita has the same feel­ing, re­mov­ing a “For­ever Fam­ily” tat­too from his neck and en­cour­ag­ing his younger rel­a­tives to break the fam­ily tra­di­tion of hav­ing the slo­gan inked on their own necks.

Why? Fi­fita wants to work in ju­ve­nile jus­tice, fo­cused on men­tal health is­sues, af­ter his foot­ball ca­reer ends, and is study­ing for his qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

He knows the neck tat­too makes him vir­tu­ally un­em­ploy­able. “Where I want to work af­ter foot­ball, with trou­bled kids, it’s not a good look,” Fi­fita tells The Sun­day Tele­graph to­day. “I want the kids to look at me se­ri­ously, so that they can take their own lives se­ri­ously.” If this is the first sign that Fi­fita, at the age of 27, is fi­nally grow­ing up, then we are de­lighted.

If he can walk the talk, he will be an in­spi­ra­tion to trou­bled young men.

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