Aaron Woods and Andrew Fifita have established themselves as two of the game’s best prop forwards in recent years and their form in the opening month of the 2016 season has been exceptional.
Woods is currently 2nd in the NRL for most metres gained over the first four rounds (Roger Tuivasa-Scheck is the top ranked), while Fifita is not far behind his former Wests Tigers teammate in 8th position overall.
Fifita is well-known for his ability to create second-phase play and the Doonside Roos junior is currently ranked 8th in the NRL for most offloads with eight in just four matches.
The pair have also been just as busy without the ball, with Woods racking up 128 tackles (the most for Wests Tigers) and Fifita making 126 tackles (second for the Sharks behind Michael Ennis).
Once again this match at Campbelltown is not short on exciting match-ups - with Tedesco v Barba, Moses v Maloney, Farah v Ennis and Sue v Gallen to name a few – however the battle up front of Woods and Fifita looks to be a standout and a key one for their respective sides’ chances on the day.
Woods and Fifita have met on three occasions on an NRL level, with the Sharks prop currently holding a 2-1 advantage over the Wests Tigers’ skipper.
Their last meeting was in Round 17 of the 2013 season, with Fifita scoring two tries in Cronulla’s 36-22 victory at Shark Park.
One more to tick off…
Woods and Fifita have played together at every level of senior football except Test match football.
The pair played the 2011 NRL season together at Wests Tigers, made an appearance for the City Origin team alongside each other in 2014 and they have also donned the NSW Blues jersey on three occasions with one another (2013 and 2015).
Despite both having played for Australia, Fifita’s last appearance in the Green and Gold was during the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
Woods debuted for Australia in the following year’s Four Nations tournament and has been a mainstay of the Kangaroos pack ever since.
Both players have been in excellent form to start the season, so the upcoming Test match on May 6 could be their chance to complete this feat.
This match is stacked with a host of NSW Blues representatives, including Woods and Fifita, who will be hoping to take their place in the series opener against Queensland on June 1.
Former and incumbent Blues among the two sides include Woods, Robbie Farah, Tim Grant, Fifita, Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Michael Ennis and James Maloney; while young guns like James Tedesco and Wade Graham will be pushing to make their debut in 2016.
What he said…
“They’ve still got a few of our old players over there (at Cronulla) like Andrew Fifita and Chris Heighington,” Woods told the Triple M Rush Hour on Wednesday night. “It’s always one game that you look at the calendar and can’t wait to play in, they are good mates of ours and we just want to go hard at them.
“We have just got to hold the ball, the last two weeks we haven’t been able to complete our sets and we have been completing at 60%.
“In the NRL that’s not good enough and you’re just going to get hammered each week (playing like that).”