Cronulla's premiership star Andrew Fifita has been left out of the Australian rugby league squad less than 48 hours after scoring the winning try in the NRL grand final.
Fifita, not named best-on-ground but very close to it in the Sharks' drought-breaking 14-12 win over Melbourne on Sunday, failed to make the team purely because of off-field issues.
Fifita made headlines for the wrong reasons last year when he was fined $30,000 for abusing a referee on the sidelines of a junior rugby league match.
The NSW forward then courted controversy this season when he appeared in a match with the letters 'FKL' marked in plaster on his forearm.
The message stood for 'For Kieran Loveridge', the man convicted of the one-punch death of Thomas Kelly in 2012 and a childhood friend of Fifita's.
Fifita said at the time:
"I fully understand and accept the seriousness of the crime committed by Loveridge, the devastating impact it has had on the Kelly family and the need for Loveridge to serve his time. I want to extend my sincere apologies to the Kelly family for any distress caused to them by having this tragic matter back in the media."
The timing of Fifita's act was also questionable. His 'FKL' armband appeared just weeks after Stuart Kelly, the younger brother of Thomas, died.
When Mal Meninga's Kangaroos squad was released on Tuesday, Fifita was the glaring omission. Semi Radradra also failed to make the side, but Fifita was the headline here. Not only was he one of the best props in the game this season, but a devastating force in the grand final on Sunday. Without him, Cronulla would have lost.
But the NRL is drawing a firm line in the sand. After years of dealing with countless off-field discretions, the league is holding its players more and more accountable. CEO Todd Greenberg said bluntly that Fifita was disqualified from selection for Australia.
"In Andrew's case, selection for the Australian team requires standards on and off the field and as he is currently under investigation by the Integrity Unit, we believe he still has some way to go to meet those off field standards."
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