Broncos take on Titans in Fifita tug-of-war, Cowboys fire for Raiders shootouts

Titans coach Justin Holbrook says Broncos mentor Kevin Walters has been in touch with unsigned forward David Fifita “for quite a while lately” as the race for the boom second-rower intensifies.

Walters said Thursday that former Brisbane star Fifita, 23, is “part of the Broncos family” and a player he would like to consider if he wants to return.

Holbrook, speaking from Triple M on Thursday’s rush hour, was asked how confident he was of keeping Fifita.

“I’m not sure. It’s up to Dave,” said Holbrook. “We’ve said we want him to stay but obviously there’s interest. Kevvie (Walters) has been in quite a bit of contact with him lately and he has every right to do so.

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“Dave will make his decision, hopefully sooner rather than later so we don’t get bogged down… him and us.” Walters doesn’t break any rules when speaking to Fifita as the player is out of contract.

SUNSHINE COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 12: Titans' David Fifita is wrapped up by the defense during the NRL Test game between the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

David Fifita. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Holbrook said the noise surrounding Fifita’s new deal had increased in recent days as the NRL’s first round approached.

“And I don’t think that’s good for anyone – for the club or anyone. Hopefully he’ll make his decision soon,” he said.

Fifita’s manager had contacted the Broncos, but no offer was made.

Holbrook said last month the Titans “really want to keep” the Tonga international. “It’s up to us as coaches, the halves and Dave himself to all work together to get the best out of him,” Holbrook told AAP.

“What we did in recruiting experienced hooker Sam Verrills and an experienced half at Kieran Foran will also help his game.

“We feel like we did everything right here to enable him to do his best.”

Cowboys dismiss Raiders NRL claims of complacency

Todd Payten has shot down claims from Ricky Stuart that North Queensland will underestimate Canberra in the Townsville heat and accused the veteran NRL coach of first-round mind games.

Stuart raised eyebrows in north Queensland earlier this week when he hinted that in 30C temperatures, Payten’s team would expect little from the Raiders in their first game of the year.

High humidity is also forecast for north Queensland at kick-off, against a Raiders side known for enjoying cold Saturday nights at the GIO Stadium during winter.

The comments went largely unreported following Stuart’s weekly press conference in Canberra on Wednesday, but did not go unnoticed by Payten and the Cowboys.

“I saw that comment. I thought it was a classic stick,” Payten said.

“I was coached by Stick many years ago. Using us as ammunition from words coming out of our organization has been done before. I saw it, I’m not surprised.

“I’m telling you now that we haven’t talked about it yet. Both teams play under the same conditions.”

Payten played with Stuart at Canberra in the 1990s and was recruited by the ex-halfback to the Sydney Roosters in 2003 in his first stint as NRL coach.

The Cowboys coach was adamant Friday that conditions would not suit any team, instead emphasizing getting ready for both sides early in the season.

“Ball control is going to be important,” Payten said.

“From our vantage point, it’s the same as going down there.

“Conditions have not entered our talks. It’s about getting our game right after a disappointing (Test) performance against the Broncos.”


(Photo by Emily Barker/Getty Images)

However, Payten agreed with Stuart’s claim that his Cowboys could be a Top 4 team again this year after going from May 15 to

“We’re absolutely capable (in the top 4),” Payten said. “This time, 12 months ago, we knew who we wanted to be. Now we know who we are.

“We have found our identity. We just have to play with that identity, things have to work.

The Cowboys will be without Luciano Leilua indefinitely as he battles a domestic violence charge, while Payten will be patient with Mitchell Dunn and Heilum Luki.

Dunn and Luki have returned to running after suffering serious knee injuries last year and Payten doesn’t expect to return before round four at the earliest. Broncos take on Titans in Fifita tug-of-war, Cowboys fire for Raiders shootouts

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