Cameron Murray believes the NSW Under-18s team of 2016 was the best representative team he’s played in.
That’s not based on skill level of individual players, but by how well the group of players gelled over a camp that only went for a week.
The NSW and Queensland clashes are generally pretty tight, even in the junior level. This team smashed Queensland 26-0 in their own backyard. It was six tries to nil and NSW scored before a tackle was made.
Fast-forward two years and the NSW Blues beat Queensland for the first time in four years with 13 debutants.
The common denominator between those two teams? Brad Fittler was the coach.
He was a genius on the football field, but football brain aside, it’s his ability to bring a group of people together in such a short space of time that separates him from the rest.
“It’s a really good quality as an Origin coach to be good at bringing people together, making them into life long friends and making them want to put their body on the line for their teammates next to them in such a short period of time,” Murray said to NSWRL.com.au.
“I love his no phone policy in the rooms when everyone is eating. I’m probably very guilty when it comes to phones and it’s something I’m trying to get used to, but it helps me be a better teammate and better person.
“He did that in the 18s when I was coached by him and even to this day I don't think I’ve ever gelled with a rep team as much as I did in that 18s side.
“It was only a week but I still keep in contact with a lot of the boys I was with there.”
Ironically, when Murray was asked to do this interview he was having a conversation with Nic Cotric, another member of that NSW Under-18s team of 2016.
Emerging Blues including Zac Lomax and Payne Haas were in the same team.
Fittler is a breath of fresh air when it comes to coaching, which is why players like Murray have thrived under him and hope to play under him once again at State of Origin level.
“He brings a new perspective as a coach, every coach has their own ideas and there own concepts and Freddy is no different,” Murray said.
“He knows what distracts people, he knows what gets people motivated, he knows how to really drive a culture and get everyone to mingle with each other get everyone to be mates to turn up and play for each other.
“As you’ve seen by his track record he started coaching NSW 16s and 18s and they won.
“His first year as a head coach of NSW he brought together almost a whole new side a lot of younger boys that hadn’t experienced it before and they performed really well and they won the series.
“He’s that type of coach that brings everyone together so I’m really excited to learn off him and listen to his new ideas and stuff for that and hopefully implement them into my game and make my personal game better.”