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‘Just didn’t marry up’: Fittler reveals why he walked away from Blues

Brad Fittler has broken his silence over his decision to walk away from the NSW coaching job, revealing the changing nature of the role didn’t marry up with his vision for it going forward.

Fittler was offered the chance to coach the Blues again in 2024 after compiling a 9-9 overall record during his six-year tenure, including three series wins at a 50 per cent strike rate. The job was a full-time position during that period, allowing Fittler to embark on a raft of community programs, such as the Hogs for the Homeless ride and Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets charities.

However, Fittler opted to walk away after the NSWRL decided to streamline the role to just coaching the Blues.

“The board and Dave [NSWRL CEO David Trodden] picked a direction and I respect what they’re doing,” Fittler told this masthead.

“It just didn’t marry with how I thought I could best do the job. It was all very polite and respectful, I certainly wish them well going forward. What they were asking and what I was asking didn’t marry. There was an opportunity there, but it didn’t suit me in the best way I thought I could do the job.

“They had a different vision for how the coach would look going forward.

Brad Fittler has spoken after his departure from the Blues.

Brad Fittler has spoken after his departure from the Blues.Credit: Getty Images

“I think they will concentrate on the job of just coaching the team. You would have to ask them why they are going in that direction. That’s not for me to answer.”

As part of his pitch to earn a new contract, Fittler sought to freshen up his support staff. The plan was to involve NSW’s most successful coach, Phil Gould, as well as former mentor Laurie Daley. Penrith coach Ivan Cleary was also keen to reprise his game-day assistant’s role, as was the case in game three of this year. Whether the board was concerned about the involvement of the polarising Gould is a question Fittler can’t answer.

“You would have to ask them that,” Fittler said.

“It would have been great, Laurie Daley was going to assist. Having Gus [Gould] back, I thought was a great idea. Ivan, we spoke about him doing a similar role to last year.

“I thought it was a pretty good team. I just wanted the players to meet them, a lot of them wouldn’t know Laurie or Gus either.

“In saying that, the staff that we had there for six years did a great job. It all comes to an end.”

Gould and Cleary have a chequered history going back to their time at the Panthers, but Fittler believed they would have no issues working together.

“Absolutely. [Ivan] enjoyed doing it last year and I enjoyed having him there,” he said. “I thought it was a great idea to have him there, so did Brandy [former advisor Greg Alexander] when he was involved.”

Fittler said he had “no regrets” about his tenure and felt he had left the post in a better state than when he inherited it.

“It’s a great battle, a great privilege and I hope they get as much out of it as I did.”

Brad Fittler

“I totally loved it, you learn a lot about yourself,” he said. “You get to see first hand what rugby league is doing in NSW, which is something I’ve done since I was a kid.

“I got to coach some really good players. The way it ended was disappointing, but not everyone gets the grand finish. It is what it is. I think the place, with myself and the coaching staff we had over time and the players [we used], NSW is in a better spot than it was when I got in there.”

Fittler took over after an unprecedented era of Queensland dominance, which resulted in the Maroons winning 11 series in 12 years. The now-former coach, however, deflected any praise for setting the rivalry on a more even keel.

“That comes down to the players, at the end of the day,” he said.

“I’m just glad we had some good times in amongst it. It’s one of those jobs, there’s a lot of attention that comes with it, but there’s some incredible moments that also come with it.

“I’m aware of both.”

Asked if the scrutiny and criticism had worn him down, the champion pivot said: “No, I’m glad the media paid attention to it.

“That’s what drives State of Origin. It shows a lot about what NSW is about, why it can be tricky to win. At the end of the day I appreciate people taking interest in it.

“Regardless of whether they are writing good or bad, it means people want to read about it. While that is happening, State of Origin will always be strong, which is incredibly important to our game.”

The Fittler era started off spectacularly after he blooded 11 rookies in his first game in charge.

“I don’t think we had a choice,” he reflected. “I was really happy I got to coach a lot of those blokes. Outside of that, I would have only known them as a commentator or interviewing them.


“I got to know a lot of those blokes first hand and it was a real privilege.”

The Blues will now go in a different direction after losing the last two series. Fittler wouldn’t buy into whether the next coach should have club affiliations, but did provide this advice to his replacement.

“Just enjoy the battle,” he said. “It’s a great battle, a great privilege and I hope they get as much out of it as I did.”

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