Fifita calls for better NRL medical help

Andrew Fifita has been left feeling the physical toll of a nearly 300-game NRL career Matt King/Getty Images

Battered, bruised and needing six operations in a 12-month period after his gruelling NRL career, Andrew Fifita says he's a perfect example of why the players' union is fighting for better medical assistance for recently-retired players.

A new medical support fund is one of the key battlegrounds for the Rugby League Players Association in the stalled collective bargaining agreement negotiations with League Central.

Retired players are exempt from workers' compensation but are given a year - a timeframe which the RLPA wants to extend - to have corrective surgeries covered by the game.

In the case of Fifita, who played nearly 300 games at elite level, he faces the daunting prospect of six procedures in the space of a year.

He has already had an osteotomy on his knee as well as having his nose reconstructed.

"I've got 12 months to get it done, and I feel like I'm rushing to get it all sorted," he told AAP.

"I find having 12 months is a bit of a s--- go, but I feel like that's why it's important what the RLPA is doing.

"I've always heard from past players who said how important it was to get your body checked (before retirement) so you can get all the stuff you need."

Fifita had considered playing on in 2023 but an exit medical assessment at Cronulla prompted him to hang up his boots.

"I wanted to scan my whole body; it made me wonder what else was going on in my body," he said.

The former Tongan international must go under the knife for problems with his wrist, shoulder and elbow and needs to have a finger fused.

The 12-month window has two implications for the former Sharks favourite.

If he requires further surgery beyond this year he won't be covered by the game.

It has also meant that after recently beginning a mentoring role at a school in Sydney's south he has had to book all of his surgeries around the holidays.

He claimed he underestimated how much pain he would be in when he agreed to operations on his knee and nose within three weeks of each other.

"I really underplayed it and how sore I was," said the 33-year-old.

"Up until I got my knee surgery I worked and then got it done just before Christmas and I was bedridden for the whole school holidays."

Fifita conceded he was one of the more fortunate players after enjoying a glittering career at the elite level.

And he said if push came to shove he would prioritise working over having surgeries.

"With my family hat on, my bills aren't going to pay themselves," he said. "My kids have to be fed."