Andrew Fifita of the Sharks.
Andrew Fifita of the Sharks. CRAIG GOLDING

Maintain the friendship, but stop the wristbands

MUCH has been made during this past week of the association Andrew Fifita has with a young man named Kieren Loveridge who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for killing a teenager with a single punch.

The subsequent revelations concerning the incident, which occurred in Kings Cross four years ago, created such community anger that Loveridge had his original sentence doubled.

Lockout laws and a public uprising against alcohol-fueled violence resulted from his unprovoked attack on youngster Tom Kelly.

No one needs reminding that this was a barbaric occasion, or of the suffering of the two families involved. And unless he has cold water running through his veins, no doubt Kieren Loveridge is full of remorse.

And that leads me to Andrew Fifita who, may I say from the outset, is no pin-up of mine.

In fact he is near the top of my boofhead list, despite the fact he is a very talented rugby league player.

I would suggest his behaviour, both on and off the field, do not endear him to the general populous. To those who do not know him, and see him only on TV, he comes across as a bully boy.

But being warned by the police, and also by the NRL, for visiting his friend Loveridge in jail, seems heavy handed. And the use of the word consorting in relationship to these visits is drawing a long bow.

While Fifita may have public persona issues, loyalty to a mate in need may not be one of them.

And surely visiting an incarcerated friend would seem a natural rehabilitation influence, particularly as Fifita has not turned the visits into a PR exercise.

What does irk me though, and no doubt has drawn attention to the issue, is Fifita scrawling the initials of his jailbird mate on a wristband he wears during NRL games.

And despite apparently being warned by Sharks officials several years ago, he was still doing it until a few weeks ago.

Not only does that reinforce the boofhead status of Fifita, but it also shows a lack of leadership at Cronulla. And, why wasn't the NRL more observant?

That leads me to one of my pet hates in the game - players with personal messages on wristbands. Okay, so I'm a fuddy duddy, but this really does get on my goat.

Players celebrating after scoring a try is natural - and often provides great theatre.

But inanely pointing to something scribbled on their arm is becoming far too regular, although thankfully the cameramen and commentators are seemingly now snubbing the practice.

In light of the Fifita drama, maybe it is time the NRL outlawed the custom before some of the smarter players start endorsing private sponsors and impinging salary cap and third-party guidelines.

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