Freddy ranked in top five Origin coaching greats

Tom Gibbs

Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler’s third Ampol State of Origin series win in four years last week ranks him in the top five most successful Origin coaches in the event’s 41-year history.

The Wide World of Sports’ latest episode of the NRL Sunday Footy Show, revealed that from a combined Queensland and NSW 27 coaches since the concept started in 1980, Fittler’s three Shield wins puts him in fifth place behind Mal Meninga (9), Phil Gould (6), Wayne Bennett (5) and Arthur Beetson (5) as one of Origin’s most successful coaches.

Having coached many of the current crop of Blues stars in the NSW Pathways program prior to their recent success, Fittler was quick to praise the extended staff and squad, and particularly the team-first approach of his players.

“Good staff (and a) good footy team,” Fittler said.

“It still comes down to them (the players) wanting to do it (be successful) – I love footy and I love NSW, and we do a lot of stuff in and around the State of Origin series to try and strengthen that.

“But at the end of the day the players and the way they came together just made it such a privilege to be a part of.”

Asked what was most memorable from this year’s series outside of the team’s on-field performance, Fittler said he simply enjoyed “being part of that group”.

“It’s not often every day when you actually want to walk in and stay in a room with 40 people - most of the time you want to walk away because you’ve had enough,” Fittler said.

“They (the team) trained hard and I think across the six weeks there wasn’t a down moment.

“It was all motivated and people (were) working hard, it was a great feeling.”

In terms his overall involvement with the NSWRL as a coach, Fittler’s biggest takeaway has been understanding how “special” State of Origin is through the impact it has in the wider community.

“You realise how special it is, even travelling from the game (and) to the game,” he said.

“Just anyone I see seems to be affected by State of Origin, they love the way the players come together and that’s where team sport has the ability to inspire people – the ability to come together.

“I thought our team showed that as much as any team’s showed in a while where a lot of strangers come in (with a) common cause (and) execute under pressure.

“That is exactly what team sport is about and that’s what State of Origin’s about; that’s our rock-star moment when everyone’s watching.”