BY Wayne Cousins
Wests Tigers Media Officer
Daniel Fitzhenry has a reputation as being a serial pest but his team-mates are the first to admit how valuable he is to the side.
Fitzhenry reaches the special milestone of playing 100 first grade games when he takes to the field against the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night.
The boy from Macksville made his first grade debut for Wests Tigers against Penrith at Leichhardt Oval in round 14 of the 2002 premiership.
Originally a centre, Fitzhenry has been the team’s “Mr Versatility’’ in recent years, covering the positions of wing, full-back, hooker and five-eighth.
Asked what his best position is, Fitzhenry puts on a cheeky grin.
“To be honest, I don’t really know. I’ve played that many positions, I’m just a very confused man at the moment,’’ he said, laughing.
That’s the nature of Fitzhenry. He likes a laugh and gives lock Liam Fulton a run for his money in the serial pranksters stakes.
In this year’s player profiles, 13 of the top 26 Wests Tigers players nominated the man they call “Fitzy’’ as the team-mate they would least like to be stuck on an island with.
Forward Bronson Harrison summed it up best. “Fitzy is the only one. You would be looking over your shoulder non stop.’’
Second-rower Ben Galea considers Fitzhenry as a close friend. He described him as a very loyal man with a great sense of humour.
“Daniel has a reputation of being a pest and all these kind of things but beyond all that, Fitzy is one of my best mates. He was in my bridal party for my wedding,’’ Galea said.
“He is probably one of the most loyal people I know. He is a great mate who always gives you good advice. If you have any problems, whether it is football related or life related, he is always there for you. He is a great friend and someone who you always want to hang around because he always makes you laugh.
“Daniel loves his wife Sloane very much and his two kids. He is a great dad and always spends plenty of time with the kids. He really loves the fact that he is a Dad and that he has a great wife.
“There are plenty of stories about what Fitzy gets up to. I’m pretty lucky actually because I am Fitzy’s room-mate when we play away. He does all sorts of things. He hides people’s bags, steals people’s games sheets, goes around flicking people, makes pranks calls. There are so many.
“Every now and then he tries to puts one over me but I beat him up if he does. The safest thing is to be his room mate and that way you don’t cop most of it.
“I know Fitzy was voted by the boys as the player you least like to be stuck on an island with, but I’m the opposite. I couldn’t imagine hanging out with anyone who could make you laugh more. We can sit there together for hours and hours and just talk about rubbish.’’
Even respected Wests Tigers Coach Tim Sheens knows not to get caught up with Fitzhenry’s pranks.
“I don’t think he has got the best of me but its not like I am going to challenge him,’’ Sheens smiled.
“Occasionally in summer, he will turn the air conditioning on hot in my office for Royce and I to enjoy.’’
Sheens said in an age where clubs are ruled by the salary cap, Fitzhenry has been a godsend in the fact that he can cover several positions.
“Daniel has been blessed and cursed with the utility tag over the years. His 100 games have come in a number of positions and roles,’’ Sheens said.
“He has been very important to the club. You talk about salary cap and you talk about having depth, utility players like Daniel are very, very important. Fitzy has filled this role admirably since I’ve been here.
“I see Daniel as a good football player with the ability to play a number of positions, rather than specifically in one position.’’
Team-mate Dene Halatau said every player has fallen a victim to Fitzhenry.
“If you have a go at him, you are bound to get it back three times as bad. If you pester Fitzy, he will come back harder at you,’’ Halatau said.
“I remember in 2005, he turned the desk of our trainer, Brian Hider, upside down. Last year, he hid the laptop of trainer Alan Mair. He just does it all. He is a pain.
“Seriously, as a player, he is probably one of the hardest trainers in the team and one of the fittest, so he is a leader at training.’’
As for the man himself, Fitzhenry says he has many highlights from scoring a try in the grand final to holding the record of most tries for the club at 35.
“I guess when I first started playing, I set myself a goal of playing 100 first grades games. It has come around pretty quick,’’ Fitzhenry said.
“I would like to add a few more tries to that record. I’m overdue for a few. Hopefully I can get some against the Cowboys.
“The grand final is an obvious stand out but one special memory is scoring my first try in my second game. It was against Newcastle.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play with some good blokes and good footballers as well, so I’m very happy.’’
It is not just with his team-mates Fitzhenry is a popular figure. He even has a cult following amongst some of the Wests Tigers Fanatics members,who proudly display a FWO banner – Fitzy World Order.
“They must be struggling for players if they are supporting me,’’ he said, laughing.
“No, it is good to have some sort of support. They have FWO stickers and t-shirts now as well.
“I own a FWO t-shirt. Last year when we played the Raiders, after we warmed up, I ran into the tunnel and they threw me a shirt over the fence.
“My kids don’t understand what the FWO is. But I will join them up when they are old enough.’’