Bennett: Fifita as good as any kid I've coached at that age
HE'D already earned comparisons with Sonny Bill Williams, but David Fifita would seem set to make a name for himself after Wayne Bennett backed the rookie to create a finals impact for Brisbane, describing him as one of the best 18-year-olds he had coached.
Fifita's stunning rise continued when he was injected into the starting back row for Sunday's NRL elimination final against St George Illawarra, replacing Kiwi international Alex Glenn (calf).
Fifita will make his finals debut in just his 11th NRL game against a monster Dragons pack boasting NSW back row and England international prop James Graham.
He may not be the NRL's most famous Fifita but the Brisbane teenager has turned heads since his debut in late June, earning "the next SBW" tag from Newcastle coach Nathan Brown.
But Bennett believed Fifita would make his own mark on the NRL finals after heaping rare praise on the 186cm, 107kg youngster.
"He's as good a kid I have coached at that age," said Bennett, in his 32nd NRL season.
"And I have coached some really good ones so he has a lot of wonderful qualities."
Asked if he could think of another teenager he had trusted enough to give a start in a final, Bennett said: "Not a forward, no."
It will be only the fourth start of Fifita's short career.
Fifita, a graduate of Gold Coast's Keebra Park High, has averaged almost 100m and 21 tackles largely off the bench this season.
Bennett dismissed talk that Fifita could be a liability, after the youngster also started for the injured Glenn in last round's rout of Manly, running 136m and finishing with 26 tackles in an 80-minute effort.
"He started last week and was good. He has played all the major games we have played the last two or three months," Bennett said.
"He's not out of his depth. He won't be a liability to the team."
Fifita has already earned a contract extension until the end of the 2020 season.