Australian cricket captain Steve Smith idolised Brad Fittler as a child, and even wears Sydney Roosters socks when he plays One-Day Internationals – and he may just have the opportunity to link with the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach in the not-too-distant future.
While cricket was always the number-one focus for the Ashes-winning skipper, Rugby League featured prominently in the Smith household. The man recently labelled the best since Bradman admired Fittler in his time at Penrith, but his love of the Roosters was locked in for life once the most-capped Blue moved to the Eastern Suburbs.
And now Fittler wants to bring Smith and his winning culture into the NSW Origin camp.
“I love the way Steve has changed, you can see when he plays that he competes against the play,” Fittler says to NSWRL.com.au.
“You can see whatever they have [achieved] is driven by the players, they’re a tight group. If the batters fail, the bowlers aim up and vice-versa, you can see there is added motivation.
“They have got a great team mentality going on there.”
Smith’s right-hand man, David Warner, is another player with whom Fittler keeps in contact.
Warner, like Smith, supports the Roosters, and his aggressive approach is something Fittler would like to replicate within his new State of Origin side.
“I actually played [Smith] and Dave Warner in a game of cricket, they played for Easts,” Fittler said.
“I speak to Warner every now and then, and he’s a mad ‘footyhead’.
“His wife (Candice) goes for the other team, she goes for Souths, so there’s a bit of rivalry there.”
Coincidently, the Roosters regularly train next to the Sydney Cricket Ground, where Cricket NSW’s primary training facilities are located.
Smith says he’s on ‘nodding terms’ with current Roosters and NSW captain Boyd Cordner, as well as former Rooster and Blues halfback Mitchell Pearce.
Still a keen supporter of the club, Smith detailed in his recently released autobiography My Journey his obsession with Fittler that led to his support of the tricolours.
“Most cricketers will follow most sports because sport is what we love. I think we all enjoy watching people compete, especially if the standard of that competition is high and, for me, the two sports I’m most passionate about outside of my own are Rugby League and tennis,” Smith said.
“My Rugby League side is the Sydney Roosters, which would surprise people familiar with the city’s geography as, coming from Sutherland, a long way from the Eastern Suburbs, the club isn’t one that you would think I would be barracking for.
“My attraction to the Roosters came from following Brad Fittler. He was my favourite player when he was at Penrith and I began taking an interest in the game, and when he moved to the Roosters my affiliation moved with him.
“Brad’s obviously long since retired by I’m still following the team, and although I’ve not been able to get to a game in person for the last couple of years, I do watch them online whenever I get the chance.”
Smith, however, could have a more hands-on involvement in Rugby League in the future. His 2018 schedule is busy, though, with his involvement with the Rajasthan Royals in Indian Premier League spanning 4 April to 27 May, before the Australian ODI/T20 Tour of England from 13 June.
The Holden State of Origin series commences on 6 June at, coincidentally, the Melbourne Cricket Ground.