Fifita’s standard still below last year: Slater

Joel Gould |

David Fifita’s omission from the Queensland squad for the State of Origin decider came as a surprise but coach Billy Slater has doubled down on previous reasons he gave for why the Gold Coast forward was overlooked.

Slater also said injury concerns played a role in St George Illawarra second-rower Jaydn Su’A being dropped from the 17 after the 38-18 loss in game two. Warriors veteran Kurt Capewell, who came off the bench in game two, has been promoted to the starting lineup for the July 17 showdown at Suncorp Stadium.

“Jaydn Su’A is the other guy that’s a bit unlucky not to be in the team but he is nursing a few issues and getting scans on an issue he picked up over the weekend,” Slater said.

Jaydn Su’A (l) has been nursing some injury issues, says Billy Slater. (Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS)

AAP has been told Su’A went for scans on a tight quad that he injured in Sunday’s club loss to the Sydney Roosters.

Fifita played in all three games of last year’s successful Maroons Origin campaign before tearing a pectoral in the pre-season. He has averaged a career-high 159m with the ball in 12 NRL appearances in 2024 and improved his defensive efficiency to 93.3 per cent from 90.4 per cent in 2023

Before game one of this year’s series Slater said Fifita had not attained the standards he set last year.

The coach was quizzed again on Monday about why Fifita, who had one of his best games of the season in the 66-6 win over the Warriors a fortnight ago, was overlooked.

“All Queenslanders are considered and Dave’s name has been in the conversation for all games,” Slater said.

” Like I said at the start of the series, he started the season behind the eight ball with a pec injury, he didn’t have a great pre-season and he is still working back to the standard he set for himself last year.

“I’m sure he would be the first one to admit that. These conversations aren’t just throwaway conversations we have behind closed doors, this is the 17 we feel is the best for game three.”

Slater has not gone into detail about the areas where Fifita has not quite hit the high notes in 2024.

Titans coach Des Hasler said before the Maroons team was announced that Fifita had been “pretty consistent across the piece”.

“He has been interrupted with various injuries but I think his last month of footy has been quite strong,” Hasler said.

Fifita’s cousin and Titans teammate Jojo Fifita said the Origin snub would only inspire David.

“It’s unfortunate for Dave,” Jojo said.

“I reckon the Maroons jersey is a major inspiration for him to improve throughout the year.

“If he keeps going the way he is there is no doubt he will make the team next year.”