Million dollar sting: Fifita’s new world of constant scrutiny
David Fifita would have only had to switch on his phone after his Gold Coast Titans debut to realise he has entered a different, more discerning world.
And that's saying something because the Broncos side he left at the end of last season was picked over more than a Buckingham Palace press release.
But of all the pressures in rugby league for champion young players one of the most underestimated comes with entry to the Million Dollar (a season) Club, that exclusive world of big bucks, soaring expectations and no excuses.
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There's been times in Fifita's short career when bouncing out of hospital after two days with a foot infection, as he did in his debut against the Warriors, might have made him something of a mini-hero simply for playing, no matter that he had a quiet game.
But the instant an emerging player signs a million dollar contract ($1.25m to be precise) it all changes.
Fan feedback was quite brutal of his performance. No excuses were asked for or given. This is his new lot as an elite player.
As fellow members of the millionaire's club Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt and Ash Taylor will tell him, he now lives in a world where he can no longer surprise people in a positive sort of way.
His outstanding performances will be deemed as simply delivering for what he is paid to do. Anything less will be heavily scrutinised.
At age 21, after just 45 first grade games, we are watching a boy turn into a man … or at least be assessed like one.
Like Milford, Hunt and Taylor, the pressure is accentuated because he is being paid on potential unlike say, his Gold Coast mentor Mal Meninga, who landed the league's first $100,000 deal in the late 1980s with Canberra after almost a decade of representing Queensland.
Mentally and physically, Meninga was ready for the challenge and was being rewarded as much for what he had done and what they hoped he would do.
Clearly the challenge for Fifita, as it was initially for Taylor and Hunter, is to handle not so much the game but everything that goes with it.
He may well prove the best player of the three of them and is coming to the Titans at a time when the club is spreading its wings.
The signs are promising but the challenge will be relentless.
"When you sign a cheque of that size there is a lot of added emotional pressure and I have often wondered whether Dave was ready for it,'' said former Gold Coast Origin forward Scott Sattler.
"No doubt Dave will fill his potential as a player but there is a lot more to this than simply his playing ability. Every camera, every set of eyes will be on him. There is so much pressure.''
Originally published as Million dollar sting: Fifita's new world of constant scrutiny