Cronulla Sharks forward Andrew Fifita says he broke down and cried as he revealed to his team mates his plans to leave the club for the Bulldogs at the conclusion of the season.
YOU know the story of LeBron James, right?
He’s the American basketball star who switched from the perennially hapless Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat because, as he said in the grotesque 75 minute national TV special entitled The Decision:
“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. I feel like it’s going to give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years, and not only just to win in the regular season or just to win five games in a row… I want to be able to win championships.”
It was the day loyalty officially died in sport. The day we were reminded there is no “I” in team but there sure as hell is the word “me”.
Me, me, me, me, me.
Something similar happened in rugby league this week, with the midweek announcement by rugby league superstar Andrew Fifita that he would switch from the Sharks to the Bulldogs in 2015.
Players move all the time, we know that. Sometimes for money, sometimes because they need a new challenge and sometimes, as was the case with the AFL’s Gary Ablett, for both.
It’s no different in the professional world beyond sport. If you or I were offered an extra $150,000 to change workplaces, we’d do it without blinking.
But this Fifita thing had a LeBron whiff to it. It smelled like a guy thinking not just of his financial future, but his sporting future too.
The Bulldogs offered Fifita a whopping $850,000 a year to leave his beachside club and play in Sydney’s rugby league and geographical heartland. The best the Sharks could table was said to be in the neighbourhood of $700,000.
For those not well-versed in rugby league salaries, this is huge – especially because the big bucks are usually reserved for creative playmakers, not human battering rams like Fifita, who plays in a position with a much shorter shelf life.
Good luck to 24-year-old Fifita, a former housing commission kid who can now afford some rather more upmarket housing. He seems a likeable, genuine, disciplined guy. Plenty of his mates have gone the other way in life.
All the same, Fifita appears to have done a LeBron. Not with the fanfare and certainly not with the presumptuousness and ego, but the subtext is the same.
In short, Fifita has made it clear he wants to go somewhere he can win.
No less a respected rugby league figure than Peter Sterling said the following in today’s Daily Telegraph:
“The money difference between the two offers apparently wasn’t that much so I can only assume the Bulldogs offered more stability and you have to wonder if he felt he had a better chance to win a premiership.”
Much has been made of the fact Fifita broke down when telling his teammates of his intention to leave. Perhaps a little too much. The news was broken in a private moment, yet somehow we’ve all been informed just how incredibly cut up Fifita was in that moment.
If Fifita’s feeling cut up, the Sharks players must be feeling plain old cut.
Here’s a guy in whom the club invested after his previous club, the Tigers, effectively lost patience with him. Here’s a guy who rose to a Blues jersey and a green-and gold jersey while at the Sharks.
And now here’s a guy who no longer wants to play for that club. That might well be a smart move, given Cronulla has never won a premiership and – despite boasting two genuine current superstars in Todd Carney and Paul Gallen in its squad – appearing to lack the depth to seriously challenge this year.
And that’s not to mention the havoc further ASADA revelations could wreak on this already drug-tainted club.
Again, this is not to bag Fifita. But if you boil this thing down, you can easily read it as the big guy saying, ‘Sorry fellas, youse just aren’t good enough for me anymore’.
Just like Lebron said to the Cavs.
As stated though, you or I would no doubt do the same.