New details have emerged about why Brad Fittler stepped down as NSW State of Origin coach, with the rugby league great making some telling comments about his family at the end of the last series. Fittler dropped a bombshell on Thursday afternoon as he announced he had withdrawn himself from contention to remain NSW coach next season.
Fittler had presented his case to remain at the helm at a NSW Rugby League board meeting earlier this week, but told bosses on Thursday that he was withdrawing his application to stay on. The 51-year-old reportedly wanted a new two-year deal, but the board would only offer one year.
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According to Fox Sports, Fittler even offered to stand down if he couldn't get NSW a victory in next year's series, but the board wasn't comfortable with anything more than a one-year extension. The new contract that was offered is also understood to have been a downgrade to the one he had been on previously.
According to AAP, Fittler was previously employed in a full-time capacity, but the board wanted to change that to a more part-time contract - which would have included a pay cut. Considering some of the comments he made earlier this year about how the job had affected his family, he was never going to take the downgrade.
Speaking after NSW's 2-1 series loss this year - the second in a row for Fittler and the Blues - Fittler said the immense criticism and scrutiny had taken a toll on his wife and kids. "I've got my methods and strategies [to deal with criticism] in place for this job. I've worked it out, but for the first time, all this talk has affected my partner and my kids," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Tellingly, he also revealed at the time that he wouldn't remain in the role if it wasn't the best thing for the team. "It is not about if I want to do it or not, it's about what is best for the team," he told 2GB. "The NSW board needs to sit down and work out who is the best person for the job.
"If they think it's me they need to approach me, and if they think it's somebody else they need to approach them and do that. But when that happens, I need to think about if I'm the best person for the job.
"The last couple of series have been pretty gruelling and I think me being there adds pressure to the team as well. I also need to take that into consideration. There are some decent decisions that need to be made. At the end of the day it is all about who is the best person for the job and they then have to go and find that person."
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Fittler's resignation ends his six-year tenure as NSW coach. The former Roosters and Panthers player won his first two series in 2018 and 2019, but has lost three of the last four.
"The board understands and respects his decision," NSWRL chairman Paul Conlon said in a statement following Fittler's decision. "Freddy was a legend as a player and returned to coach the team at a time when his state needed him.
"He enjoyed immediate success and his series win in 2021, which included record scorelines in Townsville and Brisbane, will go down in NSW Blues history. He also contributed through other programs including his Hogs motorcycle rides in regional NSW which played a big part in uniting the state. He holds a special place in NSW Rugby League history."
Fittler said he thoroughly enjoyed his time coaching the Blues. "I loved doing the job and I will always love NSW," he said.
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