Freddy reckons under pressure State of Origin rookies remind him of paddling ducks.Pressure comes in all shapes, all sizes. And to borrow some Brad Fittler-speak, all sorts of animals too.
With so many NSW rookies playing State of Origin this year – at last count there were 12 – the Blues coach reckons he can actually identify which critter it is that encapsulates the kind pressure he’s talking about as well.
“It’s like the duck,” Fittler said on Saturday. “The duck looks calm on top but the feet are paddling.”
“There’s a bit of duck going on.”
The NSW legend is not just 80 minutes away from claiming a series win in his first year holding the clipboard, he’s also on the cusp of what could be generational Origin change – and not before time either.
Blues fans have suffered through 11 series defeats in 12 years.
“It’s a shame that the state’s gone through what it has,” veteran five eighth James Maloney concedes.
” … things are due for a change (and) we’re the ones that have got to make that happen.”
It’s a truism not lost on 46-year-old Fittler, who’s own career as NSW playmaker was long and decorated.
A memorable charge-down try in his final game for the Blues in their triumphant 2004 decider in Sydney is etched in Origin folklore.
But as coach, he will largely be helpless once his troops run onto ANZ Stadium on Sunday evening.
Asked whether he has allowed himself to visualise a Blues victory, Fittler said: “The blokes have all the say in how that goes. I just sit in the box and do some paddling, really.”
His alternative methods as mentor have largely overshadowed counterpart Kevin Walters’ approach to the opening two camps of this series.
Whereas Fittler has been an open book regarding his out-of-the-box thinking, Walters’ usual dry wit has somewhat dried up.
The Maroons champion was caught out when he had to deal with the late withdrawal of Billy Slater in game one and then he bit back at the media this week after they questioned his naming of the Maroons squad in alphabetical order.
Slater, who has already announced he will retire from representative football after the series, is a confirmed starter in game two, with hotshot debutant Kalyn Ponga on the bench.
Walters was in the exact same position last year, with Queensland down in the series and saved in games two and three by the heroics of Slater, Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston.
This time, after two straight series victories, the 50-year-old says he’s welcoming the pressure.
“Everyone feels pressure but I am pretty fortunate to have a great set of guys and staff who have shared the load this week,” Walters said on Saturday.
“I am very confident we can go out and give a really good performance against the Blues. Is that going to be good enough? We will have to wait and see.”
STATS THAT MATTER
– Of the eight series that have had a match played in Melbourne, seven of them have been won by the team who wins in Melbourne.
– The past 17 Origins in Sydney have been decided by 10 points or less.
– NSW have not scored 20+ points in back-to-back Origins since 2009-10, and not in the same series since 2005.
Australian Associated Press