Old foes Gilbert, Fifita now Maroons brothers in arms

·3-min read
Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

Tom Gilbert and David Fifita belted each other as fierce junior opponents and now will start together in the second-row for Queensland in the State of Origin series opener.

The stars aligned for the duo to play in Adelaide on May 31, with incumbent second-rowers Felise Kaufusi (suspended) and Kurt Capewell (dropped) missing out.

Dolphins lock Gilbert and Gold Coast back-rower Fifita played against each other from the ages of 14 to 16 in a fierce north-south rivalry in Brisbane.

"Tom is a great player and has been since we played juniors," Fifita told AAP.

"He played for Norths Devils and I was with Souths Logan so we had a great rivalry going.

"We are mates but there were some really good battles. You ask him about them."

Gilbert told AAP Fifita was "stitching me up".

"And that's because Dave was always the superstar in our age group," Gilbert grinned.

"What you are seeing him doing in the NRL is what he did to us when we were kids.

"Dave was dominating … and I got sick of the dominating. We kept trying but Dave being Dave we kept losing.

"Souths Logan were always on a wave and Dave was always at the forefront. I learned a lot and I learned the hard way.

"We lost an under-16 preliminary final to him … and it still burns."

Gilbert and Fifita, who both played lock in their junior confrontations, were selected on the back of strong club form this season.

"Dave has earned his selection after playing great footy for the Titans and that is the thing that stands out when you look at our entire squad," Gilbert said.

"I feel very fortunate to be his back-row partner. If you'd told us when we were 14 that both of us in the No.13 would be playing No.11 and No.12 in Origin together for Queensland we would have laughed."

Gilbert, who debuted with distinction for the Maroons in last year's series decider, had stints in the second-row for North Queensland last year.

"I am not fazed about playing on the edge. I just want to do my job for Queensland. That is my biggest focus," he said.

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett was succinct when asked why Gilbert was a Maroons certainty before the team was selected.

"Tom is made for Origin," Bennett said.

"He epitomises what Queensland has always been about. I like his efforts. He turns up every week doing his best."

Maroons coach Billy Slater said 23-year-old Fifita was recalled for the first time since 2021 "purely through actions".

"His performances this year have been as good as I have seen him play," Slater said.

"David is starting to realise that the game is a complete package. His work off the footy is getting better and he is getting involved a whole heap more than he was the last few years.

"He has earned his spot in this team."