Titans coach Justin Holbrook says his decision to bench David Fifita during his side’s 18-4 loss to Panthers on Friday night was to maximise the backrower’s “quality” rather than getting “gassed” on heavy minutes.
After testing in the centres last week, Holbrook again raised eyebrows with another move for the superstar forward by placing Fifita on the interchange to start the match, with Kevin Proctor coming in as the starter.
But the move failed to ignite, with Fifita seeing just 45 minutes of action and making just 64 run metres from eight carries, per NRL.com stats.
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The 22-year-old didn’t see out the final whistle after he was forced to come off with a suspected medial knee according to the Titans coach.
“Something [to do with] his knee, I think it’s a medial,” Holbrook said after the match.
“It happened late in the first half. He might’ve hurt it further in the second, I’m not sure.”
Explaining the decision to start Fifita off the interchange, Holbrook said he was hoping to find a way to maximise every minute of the forward’s presence on the field as an impact player.
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“He’s more an impact [player], I’d rather his 60 minutes be full of quality rather than get gassed and push to 80 minutes for the sake of it,” he said.
“Luxury, Penrith hasn’t done it for a few weeks, but they always used to play Viliame Kikau for 30 minutes – get him off, get him back. So he’d only ever play 60 minutes for a lot of games over the last couple of years.
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“We had a couple of middles, Herman Ese’ese hadn’t played, Sam Lisone can’t play big minutes, so I’d like the luxury of starting Dave and getting him back off and back on, but then you’ve got to worry about your middles.
“We’re running Tino (Fa’asuamaleaui), who played huge minutes tonight and that’s what puts them under pressure. So I thought it saves an interchange If we just can get Kevin Proctor to start it.
“We sit here really happy with that move if David finishes the game, but the fact he got injured and couldn’t play a part makes it even harder.”
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