Andrew Fifita is hoping “positive statements” from enemy quarters will help his cause as the NRL continues its investigation into claims the Test star abused and threatened rugby league officials.
Fifita and twin brother David have been stood down by Cronulla pending the conclusion of the investigation and banned for 12 months from Penrith Junior Rugby League matches following the incident at Glenwood on Saturday.
An assistant coach for St Patricks, Andrew Fifita is alleged to have said “I’ll smash you” to a referee.
But the NSW State of Origin enforcer disputes the allegation and says having the chance to air his side of the story to the NRL integrity unit on Thursday is a weight off his shoulders.
“I’ve given them my statement and when it comes out, it will be a big relief,” Fifita told the Nine Network. .
“I’ve been branded since last Saturday with a really bad look. Everyone’s heard the one side this whole time since it happened.”
The Blues star says he didn’t threaten the referee.
His defence is believed to centre on his claim that he instead threatened to smash the official’s phone after the incident was recorded when the Fifitas took exception to the game not being stopped while one of the St Pat’s players was down injured against St Marys.
Fifita has been heartened by apparent support from St Marys.
“A few people from the committee of that team have come forward and handed (in) statements, which look to be pretty positive about us,” he said.
“At the end of the day, they’re meant to be our enemies, the opposition team who have the right to try and throw us under the bus.”
Fifita earlier this season revealed he suffered from depression last year after losing his Origin and Test spots and enduring the stress of having a multi-million-dollar deal with Canterbury torn up.
The 26-year-old on Thursday admitted the latest controversy had also been difficult.
“It’s been a really troubling few days for myself and my family, who have really taken a huge amount of toll,” he said.
Cronulla chief executive Lyall Gorman on Wednesday admitted the issue was a delicate one, saying the Sharks had a duty of care not only for Fifita and his welfare but also towards sponsors and stakeholders.
The three match officials at the centre of the Fifita abuse allegations will sit out this weekend, with two unlikely to officiate again, according to Fairfax Media.
Fairfax is reporting referee Tim Hannon and touch judges Cameron Turner and Nathan Sharp have not been appointed to any matches in Penrith this weekend after being “rattled” by the confrontation with the Fifita twins.
Penrith District Rugby League Referees’ Association boss Phil Haines, a former NRL referee, said Sharp would step aside permanently, while Hannon would not return this year. Turner could officiate in an upcoming match.
“These incidents are terribly disappointing when they occur,” Haines said. “(When abuse occurs) that’s what normally happens – they don’t return. It’s never good.
“They are OK. I had coffee with one yesterday. As long as we’re not talking footy, we’re good. We spend a lot of time talking about golf and cricket.”