Fittler discusses NSW coaching role
NSW Origin legend Brad Fittler says "a lot of discussions with a lot of different people" would have to happen before he could confirm whether he is in the frame to replace outgoing Blues head coach Laurie Daley for the 2018 Origin series.
Fittler also believes negative fallout from the 2017 loss added to pressure on the NSWRL Board to make changes.
With the Board opting not to renew Daley's contract, the 45-year-old Fittler – the Blues' most-capped player with 31 starts and most-ever wins at 17 – has emerged as a leading contender to take the reins for 2018.
Aside from his peerless playing pedigree in sky blue, Fittler has a stellar record as City Origin coach (three wins and a draw from six City-Country games despite starting virtually every game as underdogs) plus his outstanding work with up-and-coming NSW juniors in the Blues pathways programs.
NSW has dominated recent under-20s Origins, winning the past six straight annual one-game series. For the past three years (2015-2017) Fittler has been in charge of the under-16s, under-18s and under-20s NSW pathways. Recent graduates such as Nick Cotric, Cam Murray and Campbell Graham have started to make their mark at the NRL level.
Speaking on his regular 'Freddy's Thought' video for Telstra customers on the Official NRL App, Fittler would not rule out accepting the role if it was offered but added plenty needed to happen for that to become a reality.
"At the moment I love what I'm doing, it's pretty much as simple as that," Fittler said.
"I love what I'm doing, I love the commentary, I love working with the kids (the NSW juniors). We've got some reviews ourselves with the kids stuff we do, all the pathways groups. Some really good things are coming out of that.
"Campbell Graham and Nic Cotric, these blokes who have all been part of the pathways. Cam Murray, they're all starting to play first grade at 18 or 19 years old. It's actually a really good sign of what [NSW performance programs manager] Jamie Feeney and the staff are doing with the pathways," Fittler said.
"For me to be interested there's got to be a lot of discussions with a lot of different people. When you start bringing it all together it's not as easy as going 'yes' and 'yes' and 'yes'. At the moment I'm a bit like everyone, just relaxing, loving what I'm doing and I'll make sure I put every effort into that."
Fittler added that Daley's axing was not only a shock to himself but probably to the Board that made the decision.
"I think it was a surprise to everyone," Fittler said of the announcement.
"Laurie Daley, it looked like he wanted to do the job again and everyone just thought the Board were going to just have a meeting and Laurie Daley was going to be reappointed. It's been a real shock and I think it was also a shock to the Board.
"What they did was a review, I don't know what came out of the review but at different stages I think their mindset changed [as to] whether Laurie was going to coach then finally they thought it was time they appoint a new coach."
This view is supported by an article published this week in News Ltd papers suggesting NSWRL CEO Dave Trodden expected Daley to be reappointed right up until the eventual decision was finalised.
The decision would not have been taken lightly, Fittler said.
"The process has been criticised and they've been under a lot of pressure, the NSW Board. Everyone's been under a lot of pressure and so we should be. I'm part of NSW as well. People want to win," he said.
"Fans want to see not only wins but wins in a positive manner and the negative press resulting from attention around a drinking session by NSW players Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson in the lead-up to Origin III.
"They want to see, not so much just win but they want to see it done in a really good nature and a really good manner and I think that's been the biggest thing, the biggest fallout of what's happened this year. The stuff that came out, whether it's Dugan and Ferguson or the stuff between Laurie and [Andrew] Fifita [with confusion over whether Fifita would be asked to play off the bench in Game Three] and all that.
"I just don't think it has done the fans justice because of the record that's gone on. I think the fans want that little bit more and I think that's probably the thing that persuaded the board. It would have come down to the fans, to make sure they deserve more."
Responding to a News Ltd article this week naming Fittler and fellow Blues legend Andrew Johns as targets of the board to lead the squad in a joint capacity next year with input from the state's most successful coach Phil Gould, Fittler said he hadn't heard anything from the NSWRL.
"It's pure paper speculation; it was a shock to the board, the fact they went through with this decision," Fittler said.
"I think everyone thought Laurie Daley was going to get another year… The key here is to let it settle. Everyone needs to let it settle down, it will fade away in the media and they'll have another meeting in a month I suppose.
"There will also be a process, they'll chat to some people and find out who's interested, find out some ideas but at the moment I think everyone just needs to relax."