Broncos star David Fifita and coach Anthony Seibold.
Broncos star David Fifita and coach Anthony Seibold.

Bombshell defection: Why Fifita quit Broncos for Titans

Broncos superstar David Fifita will embark on a $3.5 million bombshell defection to the Gold Coast Titans amid reports of player unrest at Brisbane and personal concerns over the club's direction under besieged coach Anthony Seibold.

Brisbane's back-row sensation is making a life-changing switch to the Titans to take up a mammoth three-year contract at the Gold Coast.

Fifita joining the Gold Coast is a shot in the arm for the embattled Titans and, in turn, has rocked the NRL's one-time glamour club the Broncos to its core.

Fifita is the biggest signing coup in the Gold Coast's 13-year history, surpassing Jarryd Hayne's failed return from the NFL and Manly star Daly Cherry-Evans' defection that never eventuated.

Money is an obvious consideration for Fifita, with the Titans securing the Queensland Origin forward with a three-year package that begins at a stunning $1.25 million for next season, making him one of the NRL's highest-paid players at age 20.

David Fifita will be one of the NRL’s highest-paid players at age 20. Picture: Annette Dew
David Fifita will be one of the NRL’s highest-paid players at age 20. Picture: Annette Dew

Fifita was facing a $1 million sacrifice over three years to remain loyal to the Broncos.

But there are other critical factors in Fifita's decision-making process, chiefly the hammer-blow to player morale at the Broncos and the fear he will not improve as a player under the coaching of Seibold.

Fifita spent the past week finalising his decision with mother Gwen, who has played an active role in negotiations that have spanned nearly a year, and Friday night's 46-8 debacle against Melbourne was the killer blow to Brisbane's bid.

Fifita was aware of internal ructions with a number of players unhappy in Brisbane's current environment, their morale taking another hit against the Storm, which represented their eighth loss in nine games.

Several players are struggling with Seibold's coaching style. Fifita had been weighing up whether Seibold was the right coach to take him to the next level as a player or if he would receive better mentoring under Justin Holbrook at the Titans.

Several players are struggling with Anthony Seibold’s coaching style. Picture: Annette Dew
Several players are struggling with Anthony Seibold’s coaching style. Picture: Annette Dew

The Titans have never landed such a brutal recruitment blow on their south east Queensland rivals and former Broncos hooker Michael Ennis said Fifita's defection was a seismic shift.

"It's an enormous blow for the Broncos," he said.

"I can't remember a player of that significance leaving the Brisbane Broncos and to go to their little brother is a real kick in the teeth for where Brisbane is at at the moment.

"You look at the forward pack the Titans are going to have next year and all of a sudden young halfbacks are going to want to go there, quality dummy halves will want to go there and outside backs."

The Maroons hulk initially planned to sign a one-year deal due to a management spat but reached an agreement with his agent which allowed him to secure a longer-term arrangement.

David Fifita joining the Gold Coast is a shot in the arm for the embattled Titans. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP
David Fifita joining the Gold Coast is a shot in the arm for the embattled Titans. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP

The Broncos spent close to a year trying to secure Fifita's future at Red Hill.

The club went to extraordinary lengths to help broker his release from a Bali jail last November and originally believed he would never contemplate leaving Brisbane.

But as the months wore on, the Broncos became more nervous and the Titans' enormous offer proved too hard to resist.

"There has been significant interest in David from a number of other NRL clubs and a range of sizeable contract offers for David to consider," said Broncos CEO Paul White.

"We have been in ongoing discussions, across more than 20 meetings, as we sought to find a way to keep David at the Broncos, where he has played some fantastic football in recent years.

"At the same time we wanted to ensure we did not go beyond what was responsible for the good of the club and playing list as a whole.

"At the end of the day it was a really tough decision for a young man to make and we respect the choice that David has made.

"It's disappointing to see David depart but we look forward to him returning to the field to finish out the season with the Broncos.

"The Broncos are now in a strong position to look to the future to pursue other player recruitment opportunities."


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