Brad Fittler’s reign as NSW State of Origin coach is over after he rejected a one-year contract extension to remain in charge of the Blues for 2024.
One week after pitching for his job at a NSW Rugby League board meeting, Fittler told bosses on Thursday he was withdrawing his application to stay on.
Fittler’s exit ends a six-year tenure in charge of NSW, that included back-to-back series wins in 2018 and 2019 before three series losses in the past four years.
AAP has been told that Fittler’s contract offer was a downgrade on his previous deal, after he was previously employed by the NSWRL in a full-time capacity.
“The board understands and respects his decision,” NSWRL chairman Paul Conlon said in a statement following Fittler’s decision.
“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.
“I loved doing the job and I will always love NSW,” he said.
Several elements of next year’s series also remain unclear, including the training camp length.
Both NSW and Queensland have been engaged in long-running funding talks with the NRL for next year with a further meeting due next week.
Fittler’s exit comes on the same day Billy Slater signed a three-year contract extension to remain in charge of Queensland’s Origin side.
Fittler had last week put a coaching proposal to the NSWRL board, which included a complete overhaul of his staff for the next series.
Fittler proposed that Phil Gould would come on board as an advisor, along with Matt King and Dean Young as assistants.
While they had not yet fully been considered, it is likely those appointments would have been accepted, given coaches usually select their support staff.
NSW now have several big questions over their coaching role, with no applicants having put their hand up while Fittler still held ambitions of holding the job.
Craig Fitzgibbon or Ricky Stuart could be potential options if NSW are willing to allow the coach to juggle state and club commitments.
Trent Barrett and Geoff Toovey could be among other options, having previously been involved in the NSW set up.
After coming in as coach after 11 series losses for NSW in 12 years, Fittler restored pride and a winning culture.
But he now leaves the Blues with as many questions as they regularly faced during the Maroons’ dozen years of dominance.