Kangaroos star Cooper Cronk labels Andrew Fifita's late defection to Tonga as 'poor'
Kangaroos halfback Cooper Cronk has labelled Andrew Fifita's late defection to Tonga for the Rugby League World Cup as "poor".
Fifita revealed a pact formed with Jason Taumalolo and other Tongans was behind his own decision to play for Tonga after being selected in Australia's squad just a few days earlier.
The Cronulla Sharks prop joined a host of Kiwis, led by Taumalolo, in joining Tonga's squad that was revealed on Thursday for the upcoming tournament held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Melbourne Storm's NRL premiership-winning star said he had no problem with Fifita playing for Tonga but said the way he went about his shock switch was wrong.
"I reckon it's poor," Cronk told Australia's Sky Sports Radio on Friday.
"He made the phone call an hour before the team was assembling in Sydney for the official photos and things like that.
"There's a right way to go about things and there's a wrong way to go about things and, you know, I think he's gone about it the wrong way."
Cronk added that it would have been better for Fifita and other Tongan players to decide their allegiances months ago instead of changing their minds at the last minute.
"He's entitled to do whatever he feels is right in his heart and his mind, and if Tonga's that I've got no problem. But do it the right way."
'SCARED' TO CALL MAL
Fifita revealed he was scared to phone Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga about his decision to represent Tonga instead of Australia.
Kiwis coach Dave Kidwell said on Thursday that he was still waiting to hear from Taumalolo about the North Queensland Cowboys star's surprise switch from New Zealand to Tonga.
Fifita told the Daily Telegraph that he and Taumalolo had "been chatting over the last three days" before squads were announced this week.
"It was lingering in his mind for a while now also, but I told him 'if you make the commitment, I'll make the commitment'," he said.
Fifita "couldn't believe" how supportive Meninga was when they spoke about his defection to Tonga.
"He [Meninga] was the one bloke I was scared to ring," Fifita said.
"But I didn't want to put anyone out or do something wrong. So I made the call and we spoke for a good 10 to 15 minutes.
"We talked about everything, we talked about my entire last year - getting back my (Australian) jersey in the Anzac test and just everything to do with life and football. He was just so supportive."
Tonga play Scotland and Samoa before facing the Kiwis in Hamilton on November 11. The World Cup starts on October 27 when Australia play England in Melbourne.
Fifita was part of Cronulla's squad that won their first NRL title in 50 years back in 2016 and said "anything was possible" when discussing Tonga's World Cup chances.
"That's the challenge. Everyone said Cronulla would never win a comp and we did that."