Tigers drop Fonua for being late
MAHE Fonua's mullet is gone. But not in the way anyone expected.
The Wests Tigers cult figure has been stood down from Thursday Night Football after arriving late to training last Sunday morning.
Outstanding over the past month, the 106kg centre will play reserve grade this weekend following a decision involving coach Ivan Cleary, CEO Justin Pascoe and the club leadership group.
With Fonua out, Kevin Naiqama will return to the backline for the match against Penrith at Panthers Stadium.
Cleary described the incident as "disappointing" but stressed he expected the 25-year-old recruit to "bounce straight back".
"Of course, it's disappointing but this is a course of action we had to take," Cleary said.
"At the end of the day he's made a mistake which let the team down.
"And that doesn't fit with the standards we're trying to develop here at the club.
"So Mahe has lost his spot for this week.
"The leadership group supported the decision to make him ineligible for selection. But in saying that, we're expecting him to bounce straight back."
Arriving at Wests Tigers from Hull FC this year, Fonua was pitched into first grade against Parramatta in Round 9 and enjoyed an immediate impact.
Apart from making headlines for his bizarre hairstyle, the 106kg outside back then scored a blockbusting try against the Warriors before doubling down with a Man of the Match performance in an emphatic Leichhardt Oval upset of North Queensland last Thursday.
On Sunday morning, however, the powerhouse centre not only missed 40 minutes of team prehab, he then failed to show for the first 20 minutes of video.
As a result, the five captains - Benji Marshall, Russell Packer, Chris Lawrence, Josh Reynolds and Elijah Taylor - asked that their teammate be stood down for a week.
Immediately, both coach and CEO agreed.
The hardline disciplinary stance once again proves the culture now demanded under Cleary in 2018.
Fonua will be replaced in the centres by Naiqama, who missed the Cowboys win to attend the funeral of a family member.
With Naiqama sidelined last week, Fonua earned man of the match honours against the Cowboys after not only running for 215m - the most of any player on the field - but also making five tackle busts, orchestrating a try and saving another when Cowboys opposite Ben Hampton seemed certain to cross midway through the first half.
The incident is said to be a one-off for the new signing, who is back in the NRL after two seasons in the English Super League.