Brad Fittler is reported to have been blindsided when hit with a pay cut offer in the hours leading up to his sudden exit as NSW State of Origin coach.
Staggering new details of the messy divorce emerged on Thursday night after the NSWRL confirmed it was Fittler’s call to walk away.
In a shock decision, Fittler’s six-year stint in charge of the Blues ended after weeks of rumours surrounded what the Blues’ coaching staff will look like in 2024.
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The 51-year-old had been offered a one-year deal to continue the role he has held since 2018, despite coming off consecutive series defeats to the Maroons.
It has now been revealed there were several reasons why he knocked the deal back.
Fittler was widely reported to have been pushing for a two year extension and is reported to have walked away from the negotiating table when the NSWRL shut down his request for Phil Gould to become his chief lieutenant after senior adviser Greg Alexander stepped down last week.
Foxsports.com.au reports the NSWRL also knocked back other assistant coaching candidates Fittler named.
The biggest change was the call from the NSWRL board to dramatically overhaul Fittler’s role into a part-time position.
Fittler was reportedly told he would have to take a cut to his $450,000-per-year contract.
It came just one day after Queensland announced Billy Slater has signed a three-year contract extension as a full-time coach.
According to Fox League’s James Hooper, Fittler took umbrage at the news he was going to have his wages slashed.
“The Board understands and respects his decision,” NSWRL chairman Paul Conlon said in a statement.
“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, where he won three of the six series he was involved in.
“I loved doing the job and NSW and I will always love NSW,” he said.
Channel 9 reporter Danny Weidler said he believes Fittler’s desire to get a longer-term contract to remain in the role was a key part of his reason to walk away.
“It’s no secret Brad Fittler wanted a two-year deal to stay in the job,” Weidler told Nine News.
“It’s my understanding he was offered a part-time deal only for about six months of next year.
“It meant he couldn’t do all the jobs he wanted to do with junior pathways and in the countryside, so he couldn’t accept that kind of deal.
“As to a future NSW coach it’s very hard to say, but it is worth noting Laurie Daley was going to be part of Brad Fittler’s coaching setup.”
Over the past week, Fittler had pitched to the NSWRL Board his plan for the future.
Part of that included bringing in Gould to fill an advisory role vacated by Alexander.
The NSWRL now needs to start the process of filling Fittler’s shoes, already calling for expressions of interest over the vacant role.
Who could replace Brad Fittler for NSW?
Names like Laurie Daley and Ricky Stuart, who have previously coached the Blues to mixed levels of success, have been linked with returns to their previous job.
The high-profile pair are among a long list of candidates that have been mentioned in public.
Other inexperienced names like Danny Buderus and Trent Barrett have also been mooted.
The one name many NSW fans would like to see appointed is Andrew Johns.
The Origin arena is different to other rugby league coaching gigs and past playing greats have shown they can step into Origin coaching, with precious little experience, and prove successful.
The Daily Telegraph has named an extensive list of likely candidates which includes Michael Maguire, Matty Johns, Craig Bellamy, Geoff Toovey, Paul McGregor and Gould.