Just six months ago, Andrew Fifita’s world was turned upside down. After cutting an arm at the throat during a match, he was placed in an induced coma where he underwent surgery to repair his fractured larynx. Many feared that he would never play football again.
This weekend, he’ll don the boots and run for his beloved Aboriginal team in the All-Star Match against Maori.
During the clash against Newcastle Knights last August, Fifita, hit by a tackle from David Klemmer, knew something was wrong and simply couldn’t breathe properly.
In a very short time, he went from needing his asthma pump, to feeling his throat tight, to being rushed to hospital unable to breathe.
It was a scary ordeal for Fifita’s family and teammates, not knowing if he was going to pull through. The man himself was oblivious to what was going on around him. For what seemed like an hour, Fifita was actually kept in a coma for five days.
“I heard the doc say, ‘Andrew, it’s time to wake up,'” Fifita said The Daily Telegraph.
“He shook my hand…then I woke up. I thought it was an hour, I didn’t know it was five days.
“I said ‘where are my football shorts? Where is my wife? It’s been an hour’.
“He says ‘you know it’s Friday?’ and I said ‘what? Bulls-t, it’s been an hour’, and he said ‘no, you’ve been there five days in the hospital’. “
It’s been a long road to recovery for the Sharks big man. He not only had to overcome physical pain, but after being in a paralyzed state during a coma, he also had to relearn many simple tasks like walking.
In addition to the physical toll, there was also a lot of mental trauma that accompanied the ordeal. Fifita had to see a physiologist to help her through it all and get her life back on track.
“It’s been an emotional and trying time, but so far I’ve ticked all the boxes except playing a real game.
“I’m ready. Mentally, I’m ready. I thank Loz (Laurie Daley) for choosing me.
“Through all of this, I never lost my love for the game and being part of a team environment.
“The fact that I can play with the native boys again makes it even sweeter and so special. This is the shirt that holds a very special place in my heart.
Shaquai Mitchell is another player taking his second chance in rugby league and is excited to play for the Aboriginal side this weekend.
The 25-year-old is the older brother of Rabbitohs superstar Latrell Mitchell and is currently on a train and trial contract with the club.
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The former Junior Representative player had a long battle with his weight and his depression. He had to overcome many physical and mental obstacles to get back to the point of selection.
Shaquai spoke about his journey to 2GB on Thursday.
“I was playing in the under-20s for the Sydney Roosters at the time, and injuries slowed me down a lot,” he said.
“I had really bad patellar tendonitis in my left knee, and it set me back a lot. I also had a few hamstring tears.
“And a lot of other things were about my mental illness. I started to suffer from a lot of things when the injuries came on and my weight started to fluctuate… the mental side was my biggest demon that I had to fight – it was my depression and anxiety showing up.
“It really stopped me from pursuing my rugby league career much earlier.”
Fortunately, Shaquai was able to pull himself out of the darkness.
“I now know how to deal with it…I’m starting to talk about it more and be more aware,” he said.
At the heaviest, Shaquai tipped the scales at 175kg. On Wednesday, he said he had dropped to 118kg.
“It’s an amazing effort,” said host Ray. “There are a lot of people with a few extra pounds who couldn’t contemplate losing someone, and that’s what you lost. Just fantastic.”
Shaquai loves being back on the soccer field and is so grateful for the opportunity.
” It’s awesome. Because of Covid, I haven’t really been able to show them much of my rugby league ability, but it was just enough to get called up for South Sydney. They’re an amazing club, and I can’t thank them enough.
“All I can do now is thank them by playing great football… and being a good defender for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
“They took me as Shaquai Mitchell, not just Latrell’s brother.”
Kikau reflects on jersey gaffe
Viliame Kikau says he was caught wearing the Canterbury Bulldogs colors while still under contract with the Penrith Panthers.
A photo of Kikau with Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett and football manager Phil Gould was leaked last year after the Panthers star signed with Canterbury from 2023.
Speaking to Channel Nine’s Danny Weidler, Kikau said: “Everything that was done that day was definitely private…these days it’s hard to keep things private. Everyone wants to know about your business.
He was then asked if he felt sorry for the member of Canterbury security staff who leaked the photo as he was sacked over the incident.
“Oh, uh, I had no idea. It’s out of my control – no comment on that,” Kikau said.
Kikau also explained how he wanted to end his journey with the Panthers “Obviously this club means a lot to me, they gave me the opportunity to play at the highest level of football in Australia. What I would like to do before I leave the club is give them another premiership.