Brad Fittler, coach of the New South Wales (NSW) Origin team, has made the decision to ban alcohol from the team’s camp as they face a challenging preparation, injuries, and concerns over concussions ahead of their crucial match on Wednesday. Traditionally, Fittler would use the first Tuesday night in camp for a bonding session, but this time he has opted to eliminate alcohol from the equation.
The news of Latrell Mitchell pulling out of game two due to a calf injury was a blow to the team. This is the second time Mitchell has withdrawn with the same injury during this series. Cameron Murray is also battling a groin problem, while Liam Martin is following strict concussion protocols after a head knock in a recent game. Additionally, Mitchell Moses and Junior Paulo‘s preparation has been limited as they played on Monday for their club team, Parramatta.
Under Fittler’s coaching since 2018, drinking in the Origin camp has been kept to a minimum. However, this week Fittler has decided to completely cut out alcohol. The players have confirmed that this was his decision. Some players, like Josh Addo-Carr, do not drink, and during the previous camp, he spoke about his self-imposed alcohol ban.
While Queensland enjoyed their usual pre-Origin “bonding session” on Tuesday night, where players share stories and have a laugh, the NSW team opted for a more sober gathering. They had a meal at the Entertainment Quarter and only drank water. James Tedesco, the NSW captain, fully supports Fittler’s decision, highlighting the importance of the team being fit and healthy for the upcoming match.
Penrith back-rower Liam Martin, who is currently serving an 11-day stand-down due to concussion protocols, cannot drink alcohol. Despite this, he said he is relieved he won’t have to watch his teammates indulge in a night of drinking. Martin believes that abstaining from alcohol will benefit their bodies in the long run.
Junior Paulo, another NSW player, also supports Fittler’s stance. He understands that the shorter turnaround between games and the presence of niggling injuries among many players make it crucial for them to prioritize their bodies’ recovery and preparation for the match. Paulo reveals that nobody in the team has complained about the alcohol ban, and they are all eager to perform at their best next week.
It is worth noting that former NSW coach Wayne Pearce implemented a zero-alcohol policy when he took charge in 1999 to promote a healthier lifestyle. However, after a horse-riding excursion led to serious injuries to Robbie Kearns and Bradley Clyde, the policy was abandoned for game two. Bryan Fletcher, a former player, reminisced about the wild nights leading up to that second Origin clash in 1999, in which the team spent five nights in a row at the Bourbon and Beefsteak in Kings Cross.
Fittler had invited Fletcher to speak to the players during their bonding session in the previous camp. However, Fletcher had to back out at the last minute due to concerns about COVID-19. When informed about the alcohol ban this week, Fletcher understood why he wasn’t invited back by Fittler.