NSW is looking for a new State of Origin coach after Brad Fittler sensationally turned down the head coach role for 2024 just days after it was reported that he was on the verge of signing a new deal.
The news comes hours after Queensland extended Billy Slater’s tenure for a further three seasons after he won back-to-back series in his first two years in charge.
Fittler leaves the role after six seasons where he won nine games and lost nine, with pressure mounting after the Blues lost three of the past four series despite being heavy favourites in all of them.
The Blues legend was inducted into the NSWRL Hall of Fame in 2017 and was parachuted into the head coaching role the following season after another series loss with Laurie Daley at the helm.
He had immediate success with series victories in his first two years in the role, but things have gone downhill since with pressure mounting on his job after another loss.
Fittler’s contract was set to be extended for another 12 months with Bulldogs supremo Phil Gould reportedly in line to step in as chief adviser after Greg Alexander and several assistants stepped down last week.
But there have been reports of Fittler and Blues officials butting heads on Thursday which led to the two parties going their separate ways.
“I loved doing the job for NSW and I will always love NSW,” Fittler said.
The NSWRL is now in damage control with the board needing to find a replacement soon, especially given the Maroons appear so settled on and off the field.
The problem they face is there are no logical replacements which was one of the reasons why Fittler was tipped to get a contract extension despite NSW winning just two of their past seven matches.
“The board understands and respects his decision,” NSWRL chairman Paul Conlon said, confirming they offered Fittler the job for 2024.
“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.”