NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler is coaching for his future when his team attempts to keep the series alive in game two against Queensland at Suncorp Stadium on June 21. Contract talks with Fittler and the NSW Rugby League were put on hold before the series began, with a series win required for Fittler to remain in the top job beyond six seasons. The 51-year-old coach has played a significant role in promoting the game, particularly in rural areas, but acknowledges that coaching is a results-driven business.
Fittler has won three of the past five series and is determined to make it a fourth triumph. “It’s a contractual thing, that’s a fact and the nature of coaching,” Fittler said. “There’s no hiding from it. This is my biggest challenge, absolutely, as a player or a coach. But I’m good. We’ll be right. It’s a case of we need to make history. It’s as simple as that.”
NSW has never saved a series when playing in Brisbane, although they won both games north of the border in 1996 and a decider in 1994.
Fittler observed, “It’s just a hard place to win [Suncorp Stadium]. You get nothing up there. It’s difficult. They rise, the crowd is hostile and bring the best out of their players. We’re now in this situation. We need to re-group, wait two weeks, then find a healthy team. We just didn’t rise on Wednesday night.”
Queensland coach Billy Slater stated his desire for his players to wrap up a second successive series in their own backyard.
NSW lost the series opener in 2020 in Adelaide, then defeated Queensland in Sydney, but lost to them again in game two at Suncorp Stadium. Tom Trbojevic has been ruled out of the next Origin game due to a concussion, while Latrell Mitchell returns from a calf strain.
NSW and Brisbane Broncos prop Payne Haas acknowledges the intimidating environment presented by the packed stadium, but believes the team will still show resilience and fight back in game two. Halfback Nathan Cleary summed up the team’s position: “Anything worth getting is never going to be easy. It’s the position we’ve put ourselves in, we’ve got our backs to the wall, and we need to pull ourselves out of it.”