Fittler comes clean on Origin meltdown

Blues coach Brad Fittler claims he “let the team down” ahead of last year’s series and that Wayne Bennett out-coached him to lead Queensland to an unlikely victory.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Fittler conceded that he was not “on top” of his game last year and that sitting on the sidelines for the clash, in the aftermath of COVID restrictions being lifted in front of a boisterous Suncorp crowd, proved too much of a distraction.

“The crowd were just giving it to me all night,” Brad Fitter said. “At one point, I turned around and stuck my finger up at the crowd … Seriously, Freddy. You’re 50 years old.

“I wasn’t on top of my game in last year’s series. There were things about me I didn’t like going into the series. I just wasn’t as sharp as I like to be. I let the team down.”

State of Origin Pressers: Brad Fittler & Damien Cook – Game 3

While Fittler admitted it was a big mistake to leave Melbourne Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen out of the squad in the after the Origin III decider, leaving the side without a viable utility option on the bench, the NSW coach pointed to Bennett’s influence on the Queensland team as key.

“At the end of the day, he did,” Fittler said when asked if Bennett got the better of him. “The way he dealt with their big defeat in game two and turned it around … So you’re right: Bennett had them in a really good state.

“Coaching is winning and losing. We lost and I didn’t handle a lot of things well. The easiest thing is to bring it back to yourself, which I’ve done.”

The 71-year old had not coached Queensland since 2003 but his Origin pedigree meant he was the perfect option for the Queenslanders. The master coach had already led Queensland to series victories in 1987, 1988, 1998 and 2001 and his approach provided the Maroons with a sense of stability needed to pull off the upset.

‘Brad’s kidding himself’: Bennett slams Arrow criticism

The decider in particular was soured by one incident which saw James Tedesco knocked out before being slammed to the ground by Jai Arrow, who did not know the Roosters fullback was hurt.

Arrow apologised but Fittler said he was upset by the incident and another involving Nathan Cleary.

“In hindsight, the people who were in there close, could’ve stepped in,” Fittler said.

“That’s your captain and halfback. They deserved better.”

Fittler also told the Herald he would not pick players who are a risk of being binned or sent off following the crackdown on high tackles.

“You have to pick players who aren’t a risk of being sin-binned or sent off,” he says. “If you feel there’s a risk, you can’t pick them.”

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