David Fifita’s future under a cloud
He's the club's highest paid player, and one of their best, but David Fifita is on thin ice at Wakefield Trinity.
Fifita was spotted returning to his Yorkshire home this week after he was suspended for the "foreseeable future" for failing to wear a GPS tracker in a game against Israel Folau's Catalans Dragons.
Three players from the French club later tested positive for COVID-19, throwing Super League into chaos.
And this week two of Fifita's teammates also tested positive for the virus, which meant that Thursday night's match against the Leeds Rhinos was postponed.
Training was called off on Wednesday, and while players were tested privately for coronavirus, by coincidence a National Health Service coronavirus testing station was set up in the club's car park.
In league circles in the UK there are now questions being asked about Fifita's future, despite his ink on a contract until 2022 worth up to $200,000 a year.
The identity of the Wakefield players who tested positive has not been revealed, but News Corp Australia spotted Fifita returning to his home in Yorkshire this week from an afternoon outing with his family.
When Fifita was asked if he thought his ban was fair, he said: "No comment."
He also declined to comment when asked if he was looking forward to going back to the club.
Fifita was not required by the league to self-isolate, but it was understood that he had been asked to stay away from the club for 14 days after he refused to wear a GPS monitor that helps officials track how close players were to someone infected with COVID-19.
It is not the first time that Fifita, twin brother of Cronulla's Andrew and whose cousin of the same name plays with the Brisbane Broncos, has challenged authority.
He was banned for 12 months after he abused a referee in 2011 while acting as a trainer at a junior match for St Patrick's, and was sanctioned for six weeks for a similar offence in 2015 during a senior match.
Fifita said he wanted to "bring a trophy" to Wakefield Trinity when he signed his three-year deal, but the club is languishing in second last on the Super League table.
"I just couldn't leave Wakefield. For what they've given me and what the fans have given me, I just want to give something back to them," he said last year of the club that took him on in 2016.
Wakefield chief executive Michael Carter described it at the time as "one of the biggest deals the club had ever done."
However last week he said that Fifita was out for the "foreseeable future".
The Wildcats have only won two games for the season, and were kept pointless in the match against Warrington Wolves at the weekend.
Wakefield head coach Chris Chester said he was disappointed to have Fifita out.
"You want all your best players out there. He's the highest earner at the club and when Dave Fifita plays well we generally play well," he told the Yorkshire Post.
"The stance myself and club has taken is the right one; we're in the middle of a pandemic here and we need players to abide by the rules so they can do track and trace."
Chester said he would accept a suspension or an injury, but was annoyed that Fifita was out for failing to follow the rules.
He said that Fifita complained about the size of the GPS tracker, which he took off half way through the Catalans game.
"I'm led to believe it was 'it's too big'. I don't think they do smaller ones. It's something that the rest of his teammates and we, as a club, have been made to suffer for," he said.
World sport has been battling with how to deal with coronavirus, which has caused havoc in schedules across the globe.
Sam Tomkins of the Catalans Dragons, who plays alongside Israel Folau at the French club, said the NRL was a good model of how to deal with the pandemic.
He said that players should only go out for training or essential trips for food.
"As players we have got to probably sacrifice a little bit more, everybody's goal is the same, we want Super League to continue, we want a grand final this year we want the challenge cup played," he said on Sky Sports UK.
"We want people to stay in jobs, we want people to be earning money and not losing jobs over this. Sacrifices could be upped a little bit by us as players."
He said children of players should be allowed to go to school and partners should be able to work, but wanted more care taken by players.
Originally published as David Fifita's future under a cloud