Fifita, Bulldogs line up for NRL trial in Griffith

Rugby league

ANDREW Fifita's first match in Bulldogs colours could take place in his hometown.

Just days after he signed a four-year deal with Canterbury-Bankstown that will make him the richest prop in rugby league history, The Area News can reveal Fifita's new club has been pencilled in for a trial against the Canberra Raiders in Griffith early next year.

NRL head of football Todd Greenberg will hit town on March 26 to discuss plans for the prospective trial match with mayor John Dal Broi, councillors, the Griffith Leagues Club and members of the Group 20 senior and junior executives.

It is believed the big sticking point will be the Bulldogs, who must first be swayed into coming to Griffith for the match to get off the ground.

"That's our target, to see if we can get them out there," CRL region manager David Skinner told The Area News.

"(Fifita) would be a massive carrot for them.

"Previously Gary Warburton would have been but he hasn't played for them for a couple of seasons, so Andrew would be a really strong connection to the Griffith market."

CRL insiders are hoping Greenberg's influence as the Bulldogs' former chief executive can help secure what would be Griffith's first NRL trial match since 2009.

The fixture would likely take place at EW Moore Oval - the venue where Fifita won the Group 20 grand final in 2008 with the Waratah Tigers before rising to NRL superstardom last year.

The Kangaroos and NSW Origin forward's presence would ensure a packed house at the aptly-termed 'Dog Ground' while the game itself would be a massive boon for Griffith, given only two trial matches in total were played in the bush this pre-season.

Greenberg is coming to the Riverina to discuss a "long-term issue" with the Wagga City Council but will make a stop in Griffith to help line up the trial match and address other local rugby league issues with Group 20 powerbrokers.

"We took it as an opportunity for Todd to see the broader Riverina and we thought that Griffith was a key item to us in terms of getting an NRL trial there," Skinner said.

Fifita will join the Bulldogs at the end of this year after shunning approaches from South Sydney, the Roosters, Manly and even the Australian Rugby Union.

His current club Cronulla could not match the reported $850,000-a-season deal tabled by Canterbury-Bankstown, with the 24-year-old understood to have agonised over the move before informing teammates earlier this week.

"It's a decision that I didn't take lightly and something that I talked over a lot with my family and those close to me," Fifita said.

"The Bulldogs have a quality playing roster and it'll be exciting times when I arrive at the club in preparation for season 2015 and beyond. 

"I am fully committed to the Sharks for the remainder of 2014 and I'll be eagerly awaiting my arrival at the Bulldogs next season."

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