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Sharks keep Fifita off NRL's open market

NZN 23/06/2017 Scott Bailey

Cronulla have kept Andrew Fifita off the open market at the end of this season, extending his NRL contract until 2022.

Fifita was already signed with the club until the end of next year however, by extending his contract early, they have ensured the damaging front-rower is not available to negotiate with prospective buyers come November 1 this year.

The additional four years virtually ensure the NSW State of Origin and Kangaroos' prop will finish his NRL career as a Shark, given he will be 33 when he is next off contract.

"To say I'm here for the next five years is a very long time, but I know how fast it can be," Fifita said.

"At the end of the day, I'm here for the next five years and I can't wait to play footy."

A polarising figure in the past, Fifita has starred this season to become one of the NRL's most-damaging front-rowers.

After going close to claiming man-of-the-match honours in last year's grand-final win, the 27-year-old has busted through 47 tackles this season for Cronulla and was the Blues' best in their game-one Origin victory.

"Everything is going really well here at the moment, especially with the club footy," he said.

"For myself, everything is really positive on and off the field around the club.

"I enjoy everything about the club - its culture, its youth, some of the older heads in the team who have really helped me along my journey."

Fifita's signature, before testing his value on the open market, is a significant coup for the Sharks and coach Shane Flanagan.

It leaves James Maloney and Jason Bukuya as their only premiership winners set to come off contract in 2018.

They will also rely on Fifita to help lead the regeneration of their forward pack, given Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington are all set to retire in coming years.

"We've all seen the growth in Andrew off the field and his football has gone to a new level as well over the last couple of seasons," Flanagan said.

"He is a match winner, as we saw in the grand final and then again in the first Origin game."

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