He's like the fun, part-time dad. The yoga, the float sessions, training barefoot to 'reabsorb the earth', he tries hard to get the best results possible, but sooner or later, you start seeing why Brad Fittler is only head coaching part-time each year.

New South Wales succumbed to yet another Suncorp decider ambush on Wednesday, blissfully walking in pre-game with their heads high as short-priced favourites, slashed even further following the withdrawal of Cameron Munster from the match due to COVID.

So how, time and time again, do the Blues still manage to fumble what seem to be the biggest gift victories within the series' history?

The answer extends beyond the players.

When Fittler burst onto the scene in 2018, he was the hero, the saviour, that quirky part-time father ready to save their child from the doom and gloom that was the Maroon dominance. After losing 11 series in 12 years, the bar was already low when 'Freddy' inherited the clipboard, meaning winning back-to-back series to start his NSW coaching career left him as an untouchable hero amongst the state.

Then, the cracks slowly started to breakthrough.

Fittler's first series with New South Wales was also the first State of Origin series following the representative retirements of Queensland greats Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Jonathan Thurston.

The Maroons were practically in a rebuilding period, three of the most dominant players in the fixtures history, all walked away after the 2017 victory.

Winning those two initial Origin series as coach was the equivalent of stumbling through a desert, borderline dying from thirst, and eventually coming across a body of saltwater. Sure it's what you wanted, finally in your hands, but no matter how much it hits the spot or quenches that thirst, that aftertaste leaves you knowing that this isn't sustainable.

The former Panther and Rooster has won three of the five series that he's coached, but when you look a little deeper, you'll see Fittler has won just one more Origin game than he's lost, victorious in 8 out of 15 games at the helm. The gloss over this 'dominance' starts wearing thin, especially when you look at the 2020 and 2022 series, which he fumbled.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 10: Blues coach Brad Fittler looks on during game three of the 2019 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium on July 10, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Both losses were near identical, losing the opening game to Queensland away from their home, only to demoralise them the second game, before heading into the Suncorp decider heavy favourites, and walking out empty handed.

His selections are repeatedly brought into the spotlight and questioned, but never any further than the odd stick and poke 'why him?' or 'why not this player?'. Players are time and time again thrown under the bus by the media after a poor Origin game, but had the likes of coach Fittler and selector Greg Alexander picked the right players, the situation may have been different.

Look at Siosifa Talakai this week. A social media scape goat, condemned by fans for one crucial error, but why was Talakai, who plays centre almost exclusively at club level now, playing in the middle to begin with? Make silly choices and win silly prizes, especially when you have veteran forward Dale Finucane in the reserves, or the likes of Dave Klemmer and Reagan Campbell-Gillard performing at club level.

There must be accountability.

Or how about 2020, when Fittler opted for Clint Gutherson in the centres? Unfortunately for the Parramatta custodian, his only memorable moment was the fend Kurt Capewell put through his chest to set up an AJ Brimson try, but what did Fittler expect?

Since the dawn of Origin, rep coaches have peddled the old 'we need to pick club combinations to win' line, something Fittler and 'Brandy' have picked apart with the seven Penrith players selected for the decider.

Liam Martin averaged just over 76.6 minutes per game across the series - and just 55 metres per match. Jarome Luai scored a try in one half, and then threw a cut out pass over the sideline ten metres out from his line in the second. Even Stephen Crichton looked out of depth, poor defence leading to Valentine Holmes' opening four-pointer.

It all comes back to the man that is selecting these players, he's the one putting them into these situations. And like the fun part-time dad, when the going gets tough, he's no where to be seen.

What good are all the breathing exercises, the barefoot strolls and the yoga classes, if the side doesn't have the mental toughness to overcome an undermanned Queensland side at Suncorp Stadium?

Sometimes you have to put the 'Mr Fun Dad' persona away, and put the foot down, teach those tough lessons. Whether it's the heart, the spirit, the desire, whatever you want to call it, Queensland had more of it than the Blues did on Wednesday.

QLD v NSW - State of Origin Game 3
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 13: Kalyn Ponga of the Maroons
celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during game three of the State of Origin Series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on July 13, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

New South Wales went in with a meat and potatoes attacking plan, five hit-ups and either a Cleary kick onto someone's chest, or a Matt Burton mega-bomb. Yes, the side desperately missed the raw, game-breaking ability that natural freaks like Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic possess, but the state can't rely on them for New South Wales to win.

Tom Dearden hadn't played a single minute of rep footy in his entire NRL career before Wednesday, yet totally outshone the both Blues halves. Fans can blame the Blues forward pack all they want for 'not rolling' - the Blues made more metres than Queensland did on the night.

It was the Maroons' halves, along with Ben Hunt's, early tackle kicks that pinned the Blues back, where as Nathan Cleary would let it get to the last tackle before punting directly onto the chest of their back three, the game plan was inexcusable.

The public outcry was unmissable after Fittler overlooked several 'favourite sons' for the opening game, instead he made his selections reactive rather than proactive. He chose Daniel Tupou, purely to combat the height of Xavier Coates, which saw Josh Addo-Carr miss out.

The loss at ANZ Stadium saw Fittler listen to the public and recall Jake Trbojevic and debut Matt Burton, both heavily favoured by fans for the first game. To this day, Freddy is still yet to win a single Origin game without someone with the surname 'Trbojevic' in the line-up, and the first game was no different.

Time and time again, he is criticised for his selections, his bench rotation, his game plan, but there's never a consequence in sight. 'Better luck next year' has rung in Blues fan's ears twice in three years now, walking away from the series knowing their side should have retained that shield.

When does enough become enough? It's a case of rinse and repeat each year, if the Blues win then Freddy is a genius, if they lose, it's pinned on a bench selection, or the halves, or anyone that made a singular error at the wrong time.

If New South Wales are to turn their opportunities into a dynasty, then accepting losses like they did in 2020 and 2022 aren't on, and maybe it's time for this part-time dad to lose his custody. Even if it's retained, a blowtorch has to be in order, unless the Blues are ready to just accept these losses for what they are - total mismanagement of the better side on paper, on the game's biggest stage.

Your move, New South Wales.


  1. “why was Talakai, who plays centre almost exclusively at club level now, playing in the middle to begin with? Make silly choices and win silly prizes, especially when you have veteran forward Dale Finucane in the reserves, or the likes of Dave Klemmer and Reagan Campbell-Gillard performing at club level.”

    Couldn’t have put it better.

    For SOO2 and SOO3 , it was “courageous” to select only one prop on the bench.

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