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The Roar



Unsteady Freddy: Head-scratching decisions cast doubt on Fittler's suitability as Blues coach

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21st July, 2022
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If you are not super-successful, then you will be seen as unsuccessful. And right now, many view Brad Fittler as just that.

When it comes to the careers of NRL coaches, someone’s is always hanging by a thread. If the results aren’t there then heads are usually on the chopping block. But with 15 (soon to be 16) other chiefs to take some of the limelight, as well as having 26 rounds to impress, not everyone that is set to walk the plank does.

Then we come to State of Origin. Only two teams, two coaches, one series – and even higher expectations.
When this recent series was tied 1-1, the Blues were the favourites going into the third match.

Heading into enemy territory, Freddy and his men were ready to back up their game two thumping of the Maroons, and their mission seemed even easier when Cam Munster was ruled out with Covid.

But the story didn’t go to script. As all good underdog tales go, Queensland dug deep and took back the shield with a 22-12 victory. They played better, fought harder (literally) and appeared to want it more.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 02: Blues coach Brad Fittler looks on during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin squad training session at Ignite HQ Centre of Excellence on June 02, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Blues coach Brad Fittler. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

As soon as the final siren sounded, many angry and emotional Blues fans came at Freddy with pitchforks, trying to run him out of town. Some commentators were was ready to buy him a one-way ticket out of the country.

But now that everyone has had time to calm down and re-group after Origin, was it all just a big overreaction? Is the consensus still that Freddy needs to get the boot from coaching the Blues, or are we happy to keep him on?


Yes, a loss always hurts, especially one that you are expected to win. But maybe that is part of the problem. Why are the Blues always the favourites? Just because they are full of Penrith players? Yeah, that worked well.
Out of 41 Origin series, the Maroons have won 23, the Blues 16 and two have ended in a draw.

From the last ten deciders, NSW have lost nine of them. Nine. That’s a horrible stat. And that’s not all on Freddy. He has overseen five Origin campaigns since taking over from Laurie Daley in 2018, and from that he has won three of those campaigns while at the wheel. Many would see that as successful.

Fittler had a brilliant career on the field. A premiership winner with the Roosters, he earnt 31 NSW jerseys and wore the green and gold a whopping 41 times. Many thought that success would one day transition to the coaching box.

After taking the reins from a sacked Chris Anderson at the Roosters towards the end of the 2007 season, Freddy steered the side to four wins, one draw and two losses. In 2008 he was signed until the end of 2010 but was given the boot early after the Chooks won the wooden spoon in 2009.

Brad Fittler

Brad Fittler with the Panthers. (Photo by Getty Images)

Despite that disaster, he went on to coach City against Country, and took Lebanon to the quarter finals in the 2017 World Cup.

He gets footy. Lives and breathes it. Has some coaching experience under his belt. Bleeds blue and knows success. That’s who you want with the clipboard, isn’t it?


Unfortunately, what you read on a resume doesn’t always match the applicant that walks through the door.
Freddy is known to be a bit different. A bit left of centre. Some love it, some hate it. Now, I couldn’t care less that he has swapped a beer for Kombucha, or jeans for hippy pants – But how he came across during this series was not good.

Not only did he lose another ‘unlosable’ series, he also didn’t do himself any favours throughout it. There was so much whinging, blaming, finger pointing, mixed messages – I’m sure many reading this have an ex-partner that sounds similar.

First, there was the exclusion of Josh Addo-Carr. One of the reasons he gave for The Foxx’s omission was his height – or lack thereof – to counter the Maroons tall wingers.

You know, because Brian To’o is a such a man mountain. To the shock of many, Freddy picked St George Illawarra’s Tariq Sims to be part of the Blues Origin One squad. When questioned on his age and current form, Freddy responded with “He’s not too old. I’m old. He’s always done a job for us.”

Following the loss in Game One, Sims was out the door faster than the Foxx can run. When Freddy was asked why he left Sims off the guest list he replied “He’s done a fantastic job for NSW. We really appreciate what he’s been doing but we’re looking towards the future.”

Sorry Tariq, you must have really aged horribly during the first camp.

Parramatta’s Regan Campbell Gillard was also included in Origin One and was another baby thrown out with the bath water in the panicked aftermath of the loss. When Freddy was questioned over it he answered, “I think Reagan just has a style of footy and right now mostly he doesn’t suit the way we want to play.”


RCG’s style of footy obviously changed significantly from Game One.

He seemed to base his entire gameplan around the Panthers players in his squad. It even led to Gus Gould inventing a new word, saying that the team was too ‘Pantherised’.

Then he left his best player from Game One in Jack Wighton out in the cold for game three. Don’t get me started.

Jack Wighton

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

He sooked about the refereeing, whinged about the ruck speed, and threw his toys out of the cot over the fight in game three.

But out of everything said and did that had us scratching our heads, the biggest one for me came just this Sunday on The Footy Show. Discussing the loss, one of the reasons Freddy gave was, “There were a lot of inexperienced players in our team.”



He picked the team. He left Wighton and Foxx out. He picked 1000 Panthers players.

Both sides had newbies throughout the entire series. But in Game Three, Billy Slater had to call on a debutant when Cam Muster went down. Young Tom Dearden had huge shoes to fill heading into the decider – and he had a blinder.

So don’t fault the team you selected, Freddy. A poor craftsman blames his tools. As the coach, the buck stops with him. He would have been better off saying “I got it wrong this year. Slater got it right.”

Instead of being dignified in defeat, he has come across as a real sooky-la-la. Instead of putting his hand up and take responsibility, it seems all Freddy has been doing is pointing fingers and waving fists. And that never looks good.

Fight in State of Origin 3

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the emotion. I appreciate the passion. I can forgive the frustration. I even understood the anger displayed by Joey Johns after the match. Origin is a very special beast, very tribal, and brings out something deep in all of us who are connected to it.

Freddy can’t take all the blame for the loss in the decider. He didn’t play against a side that were down two players in the first few minutes and still lose. NSW had a whole other interchange player up their sleeve and they still got beaten.” 


So, back to the original question. Does Fittler need to go or is he still the right man for NSW?

Are the expectations too high? We forget their can only be one winner and blow up when it’s not us. At the end of the day, people struggle acknowledging that sometimes the other team is just better. You can do everything right, and the other side does everything even righter.

Or is that just how it is at the top level? When someone is paid to do a job, we expect it to get done. No excuses, no blame game, no bonkers selections, and no terrible use of the interchange bench.

Would you keep him in the top job?

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