Fifita deal casts doubt over keeping Crichton: Robinson

Jasper Bruce |

Roosters player Angus Crichton has entered Origin calculations with his form at left second-row.
Roosters player Angus Crichton has entered Origin calculations with his form at left second-row.

Trent Robinson admits it will be harder to retain in-form second-rower Angus Crichton now David Fifita has agreed to his highly publicised contract with the Sydney Roosters.

News of Fifita’s signing comes as the Roosters prepare to welcome back Spencer Leniu from his eight-week ban for making a racial slur.

On Thursday, superstar second-rower Fifita declined a player option to remain at Gold Coast for 2025, opening a bidding war between Penrith and the Roosters.

The triple reigning premiers had been favoured to secure Fifita using funds made available by James Fisher-Harris’s impending move to the Warriors.

But preparing to farewell big-money talent of their own, the cashed-up Roosters swooped in on Thursday afternoon and tied the 24-year-old to a four-year deal worth about $3.3 million.

“I imagine it was a really tough decision,” Roosters coach Robinson said.

“Ivan (Cleary) and the chance to play with Nathan (Cleary) as well, that’s a pretty good option.

“The best footy is definitely ahead of (Fifita), hence the length of the agreement.

“He has an effect on an opposition in the way that he runs and carries the ball, his ability to score a try on his own and also in that system. Those are the qualities that we saw.”

David Fifita scores a try for the Titans.
David Fifita has signed a four-year deal with the Roosters worth about $3.3 million. (Jason O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS)

The deal renews doubt over Crichton’s future at the Roosters.

The resurgent 28-year-old has entered State of Origin calculations with his form at left second-row, the position in which Fifita has excelled in recent years.

Crichton is off-contract at the season’s end and has previously been linked with a move to rugby union, his boyhood code, and more recently to the Panthers.

AAP reported this week Penrith were interested in Crichton as a possible back-up option for Fifita, and they certainly have the wherewithal to make a lucrative offer now they have missed out on their first choice.

The left second-row spot is a priority for the Panthers, who switched Scott Sorensen from the middle of the park after Viliame Kikau left the club at the end of 2022.

Robinson won’t give up Crichton without a fight, but admits Fifita’s deal makes it harder to keep him at the Roosters.

“It does, I’m not naive (enough) to think it doesn’t,” the coach said.

“But the door’s not closed. That’s not the end of the road yet.

“There hasn’t been any negotiations there yet, or anything, but some discussions.”

Robinson is reluctant to focus on next season, with this campaign the Roosters’ last chance to win another premiership with the departing Luke Keary, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Joey Manu.

“There’s some endpoints there … why would you look past this year? We want to try and play the best footy that we’ve played in years,” he said.

Sunday’s clash with the Warriors marks Leniu’s first game for the Roosters since he racially abused Ezra Mam during the round-one win over Brisbane in Las Vegas.

“He’s had to learn a lot,” Robinson said.

“He doesn’t owe us anything. It’s just time for him to get back out there and be himself and play the footy that he loves.”

The Roosters have withdrawn hooker Brandon Smith (calf) 24 hours out from the game.