Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fitzy proves Critics Wrong

Rugby league fans on forums can be harsher than judges on reality TV, but Wests Tigers veteran Daniel Fitzhenry is targeted more than almost any other player in the NRL.

Even when he was a premiership player at the Tigers in 2005, Fitzhenry copped a pasting from supporters, and things have only gotten worse this season since he returned from the English Super League.

Every week on Tigers websites he is blasted as "pathetic" and belittled as being Tim Sheens's "love child".

But as his match-winning performance against Newcastle on Friday night would attest, he has always been a class act.

Despite the constant hate mail he receives on the net, the backline utility has played more than 100 first grade games and in atrocious conditions at EnergyAustralia Stadium, played a courageous role at full-back in a make-or-break game for the Tigers.

In pouring rain and driving wind, Fitzhenry had the toughest job of all at the back.

He defused of a number of towering kicks that saved his side from a fifth straight defeat.

"I don't read the forums, there's always someone who's got something bad to say about me," he said.

"I think everyone goes through that. But I just do my job and I feel like I'm part of the team and that's it. I don't read them so I don't really care.

"(The weather on Friday night) was just one of those things. The ball is going to be slippery and they're going to test you out. You've just got to do your best, I was lucky it went my way.

"Taking some of those kicks was important. I drop the ball there and they get another set on our line."

Sheens said supporters who continually attack Fitzhenry were put to shame as the makeshift number one lodged in his claim for a permanent posting at full-back.

"Fitzhenry had a great game at the back, he's been criticised heavily amongst fans, who call themselves fans. They give him plenty, but you try and catch a ball in that (Friday's conditions), he did great," Sheens said.

"Fitzhenry took a ball there that I don't think too many would, one of those high balls with the wind behind the kicker. It was a screamer and he swallowed it."

After two years with Hull KR in England, Fitzhenry returned to Tigertown hoping his experience could help Wests to its first final series since 2005.

Rumours during the week suggested Canberra were interested in his services for next year, but Fitzhenry said he has not spoken to anyone.

He is hoping the Tigers have now put their embarrassing loss to South Sydney behind them and, whether it is at full-back or elsewhere, the 30-year-old is determined to see Wests build together back-to-back wins.

"Especially at this time of year. If you want to make a run to the semis, you've got to start getting back to back wins," he said.

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