Promising young Manly forward Viliami Fifita is determined to capitalise on the opportunities presented to him through the very successful Sea Eagles Pathways Academy.
The 21-year-old Fifita is on an NRL training contract in his first pre-season training program with the Sea Eagles top squad.
A damaging ball runner with speed and agility, the 194cm/112kg prop/second-rower first joined Manly as a 14-year-old junior development player.
One of eight children, Fifita grew up in Sydney’s west and credits the Sea Eagles Pathways Academy program for giving him direction and the desire to achieve.
He is no relation to NRL forwards Andrew Fifita or David Fifita.
“Before playing in the Harold Matthews competition, I was around 180 kilos and I was only 15. I was a little lost,’’ Viliami Fifita said.
“It was very challenging but it gave me the chance to drop plenty of weight and develop not only football skills, but life skills too. It gave me hope and self-belief.
“It meant so much to be able to represent Manly at that age.”
Fifita played in Harold Matthews and SG Ball grand finals for Manly before going on to play nine games for the Jersey Flegg team in a shortened season last year due to covid.
He acknowledged the impact of the Fulton family with the Sea Eagles Pathways Academy, and in particular, the work done by Recruitment Officer Scott Fulton, Pathways Manager Kristie Fulton, and SG Ball Coach Brett Fulton.
“Scott was the one that got me to the club, Kristie helped me to get things done off the field, and Brett was looking after me on the field,’’ Fifita said.
“Brett gave me a lot of confidence. When I played Harold Matthews, I basically just did my job.
“However, when I played under Brett at SG Ball level, he encouraged me to try different things in my game instead of just running the usual straight line.
“Brett told me to use a bit of footwork and develop a fend. He added so much to my game and was a really big help. I’m still working on that fend…it might take a while to perfect it yet though”
Fifita said established young Sea Eagles props Sean Keppie and Taniela Paseka had also been very helpful in his transition to NRL training.
“Sean just tells me to stick in there as the training has been really tough,’’ Fifita said.
“He kind of thinks of himself when working with the development players because he knows where we are at now, he was there himself not that long ago.
“Taniela has also been very good. I saw him a few times at training when I was in the SG Ball and Jersey Flegg teams and I used to always get a bit star struck.
“But now, here I am training with him. I have learnt so much already."