The Footy Show last night announced that legendary rugby league player and Channel Nine sports commentator Brad Fittler will join The NRL Rookie series as Head Coach.
As Head Coach, Fittler will oversee the intensive 10-week, high-performance training program The NRL Rookie contestants will go through to develop their skills and test their credentials in the quest for one to win a guaranteed NRL contract.
Fittler was arguably one of Australia's best rugby league players, with a stellar career that spanned 16 years. He played 336 first-grade matches, 40 Tests and World Cup games 1990-2001 (captain 20 times, winning 17 games), and went on three Kangaroo tours in 1990, 1994 and 2001 (as captain).
He played 31 State of Origin matches between 1990-2004 (captain in 14, winning eight) and remains both the youngest ever NSW State of Origin player (18 years and 114 days in 1990) and the youngest Kangaroo (18 years and 247 days when he played his first match on the 1990 Kangaroo tour).
As a coach, Fittler took the Sydney Roosters to the NRL finals series in 2008. He has also coached the City Origin team since 2011.
Fittler will be joined by an extensive team of specialist coaches, high-performance managers, sports psychologists, nutritionists, current and former NRL players and coaches, who will mentor, motivate and educate the rookies as they progress through a range of team and individual challenges designed to test players' abilities and strengths.
The rookies will also play competitive trial matches against an array of teams specially selected to find out if they can compete at the elite NRL level.
"Being Head Coach is a great thrill. People will be going to great lengths to get one last shot at a dream, and watching someone realise that dream will be an awesome experience," Fittler said.
Glenn Pallister, Nine's Executive Producer of The NRL Rookie, said: "We've been overwhelmed at the response so far and the standard of applicants. The appointment of Brad as Head Coach is the first of the exciting announcements of key roles that will make this show the success we know it will be."
NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said The NRL Rookie was important to the game's governing body for a number of reasons.
"Not only will The NRL Rookie allow us to open a new and unique pathway to talent identification, it will also deliver a fascinating insight into what it takes to be an elite NRL player," Mr Greenberg said.
"Brad did it all as a player but he is also a successful coach and, most recently, a mentor for some of the game's younger pathways players. He is certainly well-equipped to guide these rookies as they chase a dream."
From well over 1000 applicants worldwide, the field has been narrowed to 200 standout rookies who will attend trials this week and next in Brisbane, Sydney and Auckland.
A number of international applicants are also continuing to be evaluated ahead of the final selection process. This will determine the line-up of contestants who will be selected to appear in The NRL Rookie when they gather in Sydney in August to start production on the series.
The NRL Rookie will go to air on the Nine Network in 2016.