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As the dust settles on arguably the greatest State of Origin series of all time, I want to reflect on how New South Wales coach Brad Fittler changed the course of history.
As a diehard Blues supporter, it’s been unfortunate living through an era of Queensland dominance.
I remember so vividly as a young fella sitting on the couch watching the 2006 series, when NSW fullback Brett Hodgson threw a wayward pass, which was intercepted by Darren Lockyer, and before you know it, the Maroons legend had put the ball down and was being swarmed by his teammates in pure elation.
The Queensland dynasty was born.
This year, there had to be a change in the coaching staff but, most importantly, NSW needed new faces – a fresh batch of Blue blood had to emerge.
NSW weren’t the team they used to be, they weren’t the team that won series after series after series in the 1980s.
For years, I could not understand why we were trying to copy Queensland, replicate their values and what it meant for them to wear a maroon jersey. We were beaten before the ball was even kicked off.
At the time of Laurie Daley’s exit, if I was granted the opportunity to appoint a new coach, I would have turned straight to NSW’s most successful coach, Phil Gould.
Instead, they appointed the apprentice, Fittler, who was mentored by Gus. He was accompanied by NSW legends Danny Buderus, Andrew Johns and Greg Alexander.
I had a feeling Freddy – the most capped Blues player in history – was the man ready to lead NSW into a dynasty of its own. My view was confirmed with the team he selected for Game 1.
They were all players in fantastic form, who had been waiting in the flanks for years to get a crack, and had the character for this intense arena.
Those selected were young and exuberant, with few scars from the past – players ready to write their own history.
The culture created by Freddy – the morning meditation, walking barefoot on the grass to soak up the minerals, the ‘no phone’ policy, just to name a few – was a refreshing change, and the energy around the camp passed on to the NSW public.
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Just walking around the streets, the vibe in the state was something I hadn’t felt in years. The public were embracing Freddy’s baby Blues and the culture he started.
The public have truly regained the feeling of backing their side, whether we win, lose or draw.
The players were ready to do whatever it takes to bring back the feeling of pride, and to mitigate the heartache of years past.
What Freddy and the coaching staff have done so far has been nothing short of incredible.
I just hope this is the start of something special.