Brad Fittler‘s future as the coach of the New South Wales (NSW) State of Origin team is still uncertain. A decision on whether his contract will be extended won’t be made until October, but early indications suggest that his role will be prolonged. The reason for this is not because Fittler has had successful campaigns, but rather because there are no other viable alternatives. The reality is that no one wants to take on the formidable duo of Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, who have brought their cut-throat approach from their playing days with the Melbourne Storm to their coaching roles with Queensland.
Slater’s meticulous preparation involves spending hours in his home theatre room, thoroughly analyzing video footage of players from different angles, including those captured by Spidercam, the aerial camera above the field. This approach is what made him so effective as a player, and now he is using it as a coach. Taking on the level of dedication and attention to detail displayed by Slater and Smith is a daunting prospect for any coach. Although nothing has been officially confirmed, it is likely that Fittler will continue as the NSW coach next year. He has the support of the board, particularly chairman Paul Conlon, who recently criticised the media for their treatment of Fittler.
However, it is important to note that criticism of the NSW team is not simply a media fabrication; it is warranted. Regardless of whether Fittler remains as coach, NSW’s approach to State of Origin needs a reboot. What is particularly concerning is Fittler’s hypersensitive reaction to any criticism or questioning of his selections and the team’s performance. Instead of ignoring the noise or using it to his advantage, Fittler indulges in it, accusing the media of having an “agenda” against him. He specifically points to stories from last year that suggested he was a bad judge of player and form. But why would Fittler bother himself with such irrelevant stories, especially when he advises his players to stay away from social media for their own mental well-being? It seems that Fittler needs to take his own advice and focus on the present moment.
Other renowned coaches like Wayne Bennett, Phil Gould, and Mal Meninga wouldn’t be bothered by such trivial matters. They would either dismiss them or use them to their advantage. Fittler has been in the rugby league world long enough to know that making unconventional selections and subsequently losing matches and series will inevitably draw criticism. By dismissing valid questions and labeling them as part of an “agenda,” Fittler is unintentionally dismissing the concerns of the thousands of supporters who often share similar sentiments. Perhaps he could learn from Australian cricket captain Pat Cummins, who has endured unjust criticism and bad press over the past year but always manages to stay composed and focused on his job.
It is worth recalling a previous series in 2017 when Laurie Daley was the NSW coach and the team lost a game at Accor Stadium. Fittler, who was a commentator at the time, criticised the team for lacking a killer instinct and showing compassion towards their opponents. Daley responded to Fittler’s comments by saying that everyone is entitled to their opinion. This example goes to show that even in the face of criticism, coaches like Daley can maintain composure and professionalism.
In a different sporting realm, the spirit of cricket calls for players to respect the umpire’s decision and play hard but fair. However, it seems that some England players and members of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) don’t fully adhere to these principles. In an email from a cricket fan, Mark Griffin, it is suggested that the MCC showed a lack of sportsmanship towards the Australian players. Griffin mentions an incident from 1981 when Ian Botham was not applauded by the MCC members after getting out for a duck. He attributes this behavior to snobbery and suggests that a similar lack of sportsmanship still exists within the MCC towards the Australian team.
On a more positive note, the rugby league community is coming together to support former coach Daniel Anderson, who suffered spinal injuries in a bodysurfing accident. A special function will be held at Royal Randwick, hosted by Yvonne Sampson from Fox Sports. The event will feature various special guests and aims to raise funds to assist Anderson in his ongoing journey to recovery. An online auction will also take place, offering a range of memorabilia and experiences for fans to bid on, with proceeds going towards Anderson’s cause.