STATE OF ORIGIN
NSW halves positions wide open: Fittler
Queensland will enter the 2018 State of Origin series with a new-look halves combination following the retirements of Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, and incoming NSW coach Brad Fittler has hinted at a similar fresh look for the Blues.
Fittler admitted he was shocked Cronk pulled the pin on representative duty after the World Cup final but "couldn't care" how it affects the Maroons' Origin set-up or the Blues' preparations leading into the opening game.
The 45-year-old confirmed the Blues are set to have fresh faces of their own – hinting particularly in the halves – but also kept the window open for incumbents James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce to press their claims.
"It makes the series quite interesting," Fittler told NRL.com.
"They (the halves positions) all are open, it gives them the best opportunity."
Fittler welcomed Pearce's decision to head to Newcastle and dismissed talk from former Blues captain Paul Gallen it could end his representative career.
Gallen was disappointed the former Sydney Roosters halfback opted for the Newcastle Knights over the Cronulla Sharks but Fittler said it was a good result for both parties.
"Sydney's not easy and hasn't been for him," Fittler said of Pearce.
"He's put on a brave face the whole time since he's started playing at the Roosters and copped it more than anyone I've seen in the game. He was always an aggressive player and a good defender but I feel like he started to think about things a lot in the end.
"When I moved from Penrith to the Roosters it brought a whole new motivation for me so I think it will do the same for Mitch.
"For him to go up there to a place like Newcastle, as long as their footy team are having a go when they turn up he will lead the charge.
"I really look forward to him playing a different style. I love their back row and their front-rowers the Saifiti boys are fantastic. I like their team – young with a bit of vigour. It should suit him."
With talk the NSWRL would revert back to a part-time coaching role for Fittler, he confirmed he would continue his commentary commitments with Channel Nine while taking on the duty of trying to end Queensland's recent State of Origin dominance.
"The good thing is they work well for each other given Origin is a bit like Channel Nine's baby," Fittler said.
"From a point of view for NSW I'm out at the footy every week and watching the players on the sideline, which I think is the best place to watch them.
"In a way rugby league has been full-time for me anyway since I was three years old."