Fittler Can Turn NSW Around: Elias
NSW legend Benny Elias insists new Origin coach Brad Fittler can reverse the state's fortunes.
Elias spoke at length with NRL.com in the lead-up to the announcement. Below is the article in full, published the day before the official announcement:
NSW legend Benny Elias insists Brad Fittler can turn around the Blues' fortunes as coach - just as Mal Meninga did for Queensland - if he is given the State of Origin job.
NRL.com revealed on Tuesday that the race to be the next NSW coach is down to two – Fittler and former Rabbitohs premiership-winning coach Michael Maguire.
The Maroons have won 11 of the past 12 series and in that time the Blues had appointed career coaches Graham Murray, Craig Bellamy and Ricky Stuart before Laurie Daley took over in 2013.
Daley's successor will be announced by the NSW Rugby League on Friday.
Elias insists NSW need a coach who had been successful in Origin as a player and understood its chemistry, as well as having the respect of the players and ability to bring people together.
"Freddy is that man. He gets Origin," Elias said of Fittler, who played 31 Origin games for NSW and won 17 of them
"When your toilet goes, you call a plumber. When the lights go out, you call an electrician. When you are looking for someone special to coach at State of Origin level you go to someone who understands it. Freddy is the type of coach who is required.
"Mal Meninga wasn't a great success as a club coach at Canberra but he was for Queensland because he is a bloke who has been through it all, done it and knows what is required to rise to the occasion in the big games at the representative level.
"Freddy didn't have great success at the Roosters as coach, but he was a star when the Blues dominated Origin. He came into it as an 18-year-old with his eyes wide open, very excited and did what he had to with distinction.
"There are going to be a lot of new kids come into the team, there has to be, and he can relate to that."
Elias said Fittler's laid-back persona was not a drawback.
"Yes, he's jovial. But you've got to enjoy Origin camp otherwise the journey is not worth it," he said.
"He will provide enjoyment and success and that is where the ecstasy of enjoyment is, when you win.
"He likes to be casual and relaxed at the right times, and that is a good thing. But when he needs his players to be serious and get down to business he will get that respect.
"Mal Meninga got that from his players for a decade as a Queensland coach, and that has continued with the Australian side where they are all leaders.
"I think Freddy can do that. He can turn the larrikins into leaders."
While not the decisive factor, Elias said Fittler's success with the Lebanese side in the World Cup would count in his favour.
Elias reckoned Fittler would also be ideal to be the face of the Blues in a promotional sense and would be able to attract icons to support the team in the same way Meninga and Kevin Walters had with the Maroons.
Fittler has already reached out to Phil Gould and Andrew Johns to be part of the set-up if appointed.
"When you make a decision like this you also think of the theatricals," Elias said.
"State of Origin is a ratings leader and the biggest sporting program in the country, so they have to keep on putting up personalities who the public love and adore. There is no one better than Freddie Fittler.
"If he asked for any assistance from NSW greats along the way, nobody would say no. They would be honoured."
This article first appeared on NRL.com