Souths young guns ready for finals
David Fifita appears determined to avenge the disappointment of missing last year's Mal Meninga grand final loss to the Western Mustangs as he continues to produce performances that have many good judges labelling him as the game's most exciting young talent.
After being forced out of the grand final match last year with injury; this season Fifita has been a constant feature on the scoresheet with his double against the Mustangs in Round 7 taking his season tally to 12 tries; making him the leading try scorer in the competition.
Aside from his uncanny knack of finding the try line, the former Australian Schoolboy and junior Queensland Origin representative has been terrorising defences with his ability to use his fend and offload to set up his outside players.
Souths coach Jace Van Dijk lauded the positive impact Fifita has had on his side with his game knowledge and calm head being invaluable to his team-mates.
He also likened the ball-running ability of the powerful teenager to a former Origin hitman.
"I don't know if I've seen a better ball runner as an 18-year-old ... I grew up playing a bit of footy with Carl Webb and he reminds me of what he was like (then), but obviously a bit faster," Van Dijk said.
Fifita's performances in the Mal Meninga Cup are a reflection of his future stardom and he appears destined to follow the path of a number of other young members of the Broncos stable, like Patrick Carrigan and Payne Haas, who are developing their skills in the Intrust Super Cup.
With the Magpies boasting a formidable attack capable of scoring tries from anywhere, the return of star halfback Tanah Boyd from a shoulder reconstruction has reignited a long-term combination with Fifita that extends beyond playing together at Souths.
The dynamic duo, who play together on the right edge, shared a decorated 2017 season that saw them represent Queensland and Australian Schoolboys, as well as claiming the NRL Schoolboy Cup with Keebra Park, where Fifita was named the Peter Sterling Medallist for the competition's best player.
Van Dijk – who is back coaching at Souths after spending some time with the Easts Tigers as their Intrust Super Cup assistant – praised Boyd's ability to control a football side and likened his game to Storm-contracted duo Brodie Croft and Billy Walters.
"I've done some work with Brodie Croft and Billy Walters over the past couple of years at Easts and he's as good as those guys at understanding where the game is at and his game management is as good as anyone's I've seen," he said.
This ability to control and manage a game has allowed Van Dijk to entrust his halves pairing to play "eyes up" football and this freedom has been instrumental in the Magpies playing free-flowing football.
"I feel at that age group with school footy they get given a lot of structure, so I give these guys very little instruction in regard to their attack and I let these guys play what they see," he said.
But with their semi-final against the Seagulls pitting the two top-scoring sides in the competition against each other, Van Dijk was under no illusions as to where the game would be won on Sunday against Tweed Heads.
"I think for both teams, their defence will decide who will win on the weekend because I think both sides will score tries – but it will come down who can defend best close to their line," he said.
>>> Davies Park will host the semi-final double header this Sunday, with the Norths Devils taking on Mackay at 1.30pm before Souths take on Tweed at 3pm.