Rugby League Column By Aaron Callaghan
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With the State of Origin shield back in the New South Wales Rugby League trophy cabinet, it is time to look at how NSW developed and carried out a carefully planned culture change with the NSW Blues squad resulting in a series victory, the first in four years and only the second NSW series victory in 13 years. Secondly a look ahead to how the Queensland Maroons can re-group in 2019.
Laurie out. Freddie in. Mentally scarred losers out. New young core in.
Everything new, new team hotel, new coaching staff, new players, new footballs, bare-foot training methods and most importantly new jerseys and training kit but more on that later. Brad Fittler and his coaching staff executed a complete turn around in Blues team culture and most importantly teaching his new young team how to win, prior to the team selection before origin one – there was healthy competition between several players for each position and Freddie willing to take in fresh faces. The NSW halves pairing was still unclear until two days before selection Monday, luckily for James Maloney and Nathan Cleary expertly led the Penrith Panthers beat the Dragons in a dominant display at Penrith Stadium. While Euan Aitken was terribly unlucky to miss selection in what narrowed to a three horse race between eventual incumbents James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell.
The point is – competition is great – competition breeds innovation and forces us to do our best.
Among Fittler’s left field techniques was the coach’s adoption of the newly famed ‘No Dickheads’ policy, which is a hugely popular policy among professional sports teams in this current era, much to the chagrin of Triple M’s Roy Slaven who proclaimed dickheads are a must-have, ‘only dickheads win state of origin. Look at Queensland.”
It goes without saying that team chemistry goes a long way to winning championships and tournaments and Brad Fittler set about changing everything. The team was almost unrecognisable from previous years and the concept of a unified team is key to Fittler, who told the Sydney Morning Herald – “If you are going to be a selfish [expletive] and act like a selfish [expletive], you’ll be out the door straight away,”. No dickheads.
James Maloney was the lynchpin to the Blues on field execution and success and from all reports the brainchild behind the earth nutrient absorbing, bare foot training sessions at Moore Park. Maloney should, should be the Kangaroos half back for whatever irrelevant test match series are slated for the spring months. Maloney has expertly galvanised this young NSW Blues team, his kicking and passing game has been first rate. Most importantly Maloney’s decision making under the pressure of the big moment has been near flawless. The concerns, and valid ones surrounding Maloney’s defensive liabilities have been almost a non-factor at Origin level, to be sure he’s had some help down the Blues left edge with captain Boyd Cordner and Latrell Mitchell either side of him.
Mal – pick Maloney at 7 for the Kangaroos – Don’t over think it.
Nothing makes you feel rejuvenated like some new threads and the NSW Blues lit up the ‘Bryden’s Lawyers’ credit card, splurging on new kit. The Blues hit the Melbourne boutiques, spending big up Lygon street before game one at the MCG. The chief fashionistas down at NSWRL headquarters opted for a darker blue paired with two dark blue v-shape on the players chest, a sleek looking jersey.
The NSW Blues newly minted jersey design extended to the training gear, this wasn’t a case of the emporers new clothes, Queensland chose not to overhaul their playing gear and well .. the results speak for itself.
NSW Blues to win game three completing the clean sweep.
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