Sharks legend Andrew Fifita has decided to retire amid seven required surgeries despite interest from the Bulldogs and Manly, bringing the curtain down on one of rugby league’s great careers.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Fifita had made the heartbreaking decision to retire from rugby league despite holding talks with Canterbury and the Sea Eagles to continue his career in 2023.
The 33-year-old scored 40 tries in 251 NRL games for the Tigers and Sharks, won a premiership in 2016 and played 10 Origins for NSW and 17 Tests for Tonga and the Kangaroos in a glittering rugby league career.
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Fifita was named the player of the year in 2016 when his brilliant solo try helped lead Cronulla to their first ever premiership and is regarded as one of the best players the club has ever produced.
His decision to defect from the Kangaroos to his native Tonga also ignited the international game, sparking a wave of players to follow him and represent their countries of origin.
After a brave comeback from a horror lung injury that left him in a coma in 2021, Fifita is set to become one of the toughest players in rugby league.
Fifita wanted to play on and offer leadership to a young attacking pack and had Manly and the Bulldogs in his sights.
However, his medical on leaving the Sharks indicated he needed seven operations to repair the injury, forcing Fifita to step down.
“I have made the difficult decision to announce my retirement from the NRL,” Fifita told Sharks Media on Tuesday morning.
“I am extremely grateful for all the milestones and memories I have made at the Sharks.
“I can retire knowing that I have accomplished everything I dreamed of.
“Thank you Cronulla Sharks and all the members and fans for sticking with me and celebrating all the highs I’ve had in my career.”
Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon paid tribute to Fifita for always putting the club first.
“Andrew is an amazing guy and an amazing club man,” Fitzgibbon said.
“I’ve worked with him a bit in rep footy but I didn’t know him, he’s really worth it to me personally because of how much he cares about the club and the players.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve and embodies everything we strive to achieve here at the Sharks.
“He has a real presence and leadership that will never be replaced, he can finish his career proud of what he has achieved.”
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“I’ve spoken to (Manly’s) Dessie (Hasler) and (Canterbury’s) Cameron (Ciraldo) about helping them with some leadership in their pack next year,” Fifita told The Daily Telegraph.
“I wanted to help Cam in his first year to help the team get started in the first year.
“Same with Manly, they’re going through a bunch of strong youngsters but they need some senior character.
“What killed me was the medication. When you leave the club, you have an exit medical examination that analyzes your body. The doctor sat me down and walked me through everything.”
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Fifita revealed in August that 2022 would be his final season for his beloved Sharks, but vowed to play on after his best season for Cronulla since 2018.
However, a meeting with Sharks doctor George Pitsis convinced Fifita that the time was right to hang up his boots.
“The MRI showed that I can continue to play, but I need to push through a few things that my body needs to work on,” Fifita told The Daily Telegraph.
“I need osteotomy surgery on my left knee, that’s when they actually cut through the bone and add tissue to realign your bones.
“I need surgery to straighten my left ankle, I need reconstruction of my right shoulder, my nasal bone is collapsing, so I need reconstruction of my nose.
“I need my middle finger fused, my right elbow arthroscopy and I’ve lost all my back teeth so I need dental surgery and dental implants.”
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