Brad Fittler believes the NSW coaching job is his to lose, believing there “wouldn’t be many stronger cases” for the role given his experiences as a player, coach and ambassador at State of Origin level.
Fittler has revealed his plans to bring fellow Channel Nine commentators Andrew Johns and Phil Gould onto his coaching staff if he is the successful candidate in a move that will bring three of the Blues’ biggest names into the fold. The former Penrith and Roosters playmaker said the Nine Network’s head of sport, Tom Malone, had given his blessing to juggle the coaching and commentary roles as the NSWRL prepares to interview “three to four” candidates from next week.
Fittler is the clear front runner to replace Laurie Daley due to his deeds on the field and his coaching experience off it, including previous roles with City Origin, the Roosters and as a NSW assistant. Even the medal presented to the Blues’ best player of the series is named after Fittler, such is the regard he is held in by the NSWRL hierarchy. It has led to a belief that the job is Fittler’s to lose, a notion the man himself wasn’t shying away from.
“I feel like I’m in a pretty good position,” Fittler said at a ceremony marking the commencement of the NSWRL’s centre of excellence construction at ANZ Stadium.
“Given my involvement with State of Origin and for a long time in Origin as a player, as an assistant, as a supporter, as an ambassador and relationships with other people – if it’s mine to lose, it’s understandable because there wouldn’t be many other stronger cases.
“Whether they think I’m a good coach, that will come down to their decision.”
The NSWRL will interview the contenders during the next fortnight with a view to announcing the successful candidate following a board meeting on November 24. Others linked to the role include Michael Maguire, John Cartwright and David Furner, although Fittler remains the firm favourite. NSWRL chairman George Peponis said it was appropriate to give everyone who had expressed an interest an opportunity to make their pitch.
“Everyone knows Freddie has put his hand up but there are others. It is important we speak to them,” Peponis said.
“It’s a matter of respect and courtesy to people. If people put their hand up for a job you have to give them an opportunity to put their case forward. I think that is the way it should be done …
“You have to realise that Freddie is committed to Channel Nine. They are all the questions we have to ask. You can’t just say you have got it. What happens during that seven-week Origin period when he is committed to Channel Nine and we need him full-time? All those questions need to be asked and they need to be answered before you rush in and make an announcement.”
The addition of Johns, the eighth Immortal, and Gould, NSW’s most successful coach, to team Fittler will undoubtedly help his chances. Fittler said he had yet to formally discuss what their roles would entail.
“First it would be sitting down and getting what their thoughts are,” Fittler said. “We obviously talk a lot about Origin because we work so closely around the game.
“They have their thoughts about what’s going on at the moment. They know externally what camp life is like these days, so it’s just getting their opinions.
“I haven’t had the chance to sit down and confirm any roles for anyone, so that will come out in time if things get to a different level.”
The Blues have won just one of the past 12 series, but Fittler believes the emergence of young stars including Nathan Cleary, the Trbojevic brothers – Jake and Tom – and Jack Bird has the state poised for better results.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity,” Fittler said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many good young kids come through NSW for a long time. That’s been one of the hard things for the players that have been part of this squad for at least half-a-dozen years, there hasn’t been pressure from underneath.
“That’s something every player needs, to feel like if you’re not going well someone will take your spot. It sharpens everyone up. We’ll see some good NSW players come from the start of next year.”