“He plays the big games so well. He’s pretty good. He was solid today from a point of view he took some tough runs and the stuff he does working around the ball and defence, there’s no doubt they’ve all learned off Billy [Slater]. That job is so difficult and you’ve got to be so fit. He’s special.”
Fittler jubilantly ran onto the ANZ Stadium field after NSW’s miraculous late try, prompting the coach to wonder if he would cost his side or invading the pitch.
Fittler became only the second NSW coach in Origin history after Phil Gould to hoist the interstate spoils twice. He still has one more year to run on his Blues deal, which automatically rolled over to the end of 2020 after he won last year’s series.
He said the moment brought back memories of Mark Coyne’s “miracle” try for the Maroons in 1994.
“I reckon I know how Wally [Lewis] felt,” Fittler joked. “I was a bit nervous because I was on the field and I was thinking, ‘can they take the try off us because I’m on the field?’ Queensland has done that a lot to us and it was nice to get one back.
“I thought they were better than us with the week they had and players they pulled in. You make your own [luck]. Mitchell Pearce finding that space at the death, that’s not luck. He’s gone through a lot of disappointment and a lot of blokes wouldn’t have thrown [the pass].”
He plays the big games so well. There’s no doubt they’ve all [fullbacks] learned off Billy [Slater]. That job is so difficult and you’ve got to be so fit. He’s special
Fittler had copped some criticism for his team changes throughout the series and for taking over the reins at a time when Queensland’s dynasty-shaping superstars had all exited the representative scene.
“It’s been a lucky time,” Fittler said. “I got it at a good time. The Queensland side four years ago is very different to the Queensland side now. I think at the moment there’s a really good footy team in there and if people want to get into they’ve got to work hard as well.
“One of the best things today I saw in the WhatsApp group [game one five-eighth] Cody Walker text and said, ‘I can’t wait to watch you’. That’s when you know you’ve got a really good thing going. We try to set really high standards and that just shows when you get those people making a point to do it.”
The Blues were assessing a hamstring injury to bench forward Wade Graham, who lasted just 16 minutes in the second half.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.