Brent Read provided Milk fans with one of the more exciting fever dreams of recent times when he suggested that the Raiders are making a move for David Fifita.
It’s so ridiculous it could be the plot of your favourite hub-based video clip. A top line second-rower that has spent the last two years vacillating between disinterested and poorly used coming to Canberra to fill a gap the Green Machine desperately needs addressing? The Raiders haven’t thieved that kind of talent since the good old days. It’s so perfect it’s simply unbelievable. Of course, it doesn’t have to be believable, because Reed is speculating based on circumstance rather than any specific information.
The pitch, such that it is, is pretty straightforward. Fifita and the Titans haven’t seen eye to eye recently. He’s on the market for 2024, and so far negotiations haven’t been going well, with discussions mainly revolving around a pay cut for him because the Titans have realised the $1.2m they provided to blow him out of Brisbane is probably on the high side for a second rower. Fifita’s partner Shaylee Bent is on the radar as a marquee player for the Raiders’ NRLW team (worth noting in itself!), and maybe Millie Boyle and Adam Elliott becomes Shaylee Bent and David Fifita.
One can only dream. It gets more of a squinting proposition when you consider money. It’s always hard to tell (because no one will tell us) but it feels unlikely that the Raiders could offer Fifita what he could get on the open market. Yes some money has been freed up in the departure lounge this off-season but given some recent upgrades, and the fact Canberra still have four more roster spots to fill and not that much money, they would be red-lining to match the money Fifita would get elsewhere. I wrote recently it seemed unlikely the Milk would be getting a highly paid star, and this might be the highest.
Of course, the significant likelihood is that this is the big daddy of Raider Raises. Fifita and his management want to make sure the Titans (or maybe the Broncos) come to the party in a big way. Obviously they don’t think it’s his fault that the Titans are a basket case that have treated him like a pack horse instead of the racing version. And so rumours and ideas emerge based on tenuous links (I would bet my signed Josh Papalii playing card that Fifita and Bent share an agent and that agent recently chatted to Read) and suddenly the ‘Raiders are interested’ (because who wouldn’t be) becomes ‘Fifita might leave’ and Davey boy gets to leverage interest into a new deal in his home state at near enough what he was already on.
So it’s probably not going to happen. Which is a shame because, as we said before, Fifita is a rare talent. He is near impossible to tackle, as agile and powerful as anyone in the league, and he’s only 22. The Titans have become enamoured with ‘throwing the ball to Fifita and hoping’ because he turns hope into outcomes far more than anyone should. Some will question his work ethic, which is fair enough. But I would back a good club culture and smart coach to turn this talented but imperfect 22 year old into something special. He’s proven at a range of levels he’s as good as anyone in the game. He just needs a competent environment to operate in.
Canberra could provide that. Big Papa and Tapine would be the veteran leadership that could put an arm around him, guide him through the difficulties of getting along with Stick. Both have suffered questions about their enthusiasm for the profession at times, and would be able to help him develop the right habits as a professional. Sticky may never develop a structured offence for him to thrive in, but he would also never let him wonder about the expectations on him from the club. He’d fit perfectly opposite Hudson Young on the other edge, not only providing the Milk with arguably the most stunning pack in the competition but also fill a gap we’ve all been wondering about. Play him on the right and Jamal Fogarty might weep with joy. Playing him on the left and defences would weep at the thought of having to pick between him and Jack to break their bodies against.
Alas, this is likely nothing but a sweet, sweet fantasy baby. Close your eyes and enjoy the thought. It’s like the time between buying a lotto ticket and thinking about what you’d spend the winnings on. Half the fun is the idea.
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