Former Leeds Rhinos star Danny Buderus was no doubt surprised when he was informed alongside legendary figure and former Warrington Wolves star Andrew Johns that Brad Fittler has resigned from his role in charge of the NSW Blues following more than a week of negotiations with the NSWRL board.
On the same day the QRL announced the re-signing of Maroons coach Billy Slater for a further three years, NSWRL Chairman Paul Conlon said his board offered Fittler the Blues job for 2024 – a seventh campaign – but he had declined the offer.
“The board understands and respects his decision,” Conlon said in a statement.
“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 took over from Laurie Daley as Blues coach in 2018, winning consecutive series before suffering defeat in 2020.
NSW won the next series in 2021 but have lost the past two Origin campaigns to Queensland 2-1. He finishes his reign with nine wins and nine losses.
“I’ve loved doing the job and I will always love NSW,” Fittler said.
The NSWRL indicated they will now invite expressions of interest from coaches to be involved in the State of Origin program in 2024.
It’s understood Fittler’s assistant coach Paul McGregor, Blues advisor Greg Alexander and Origin legends Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus have informed NSWRL they will not be involved in 2024.
There has been talk that Canterbury Bulldogs chief Phil Gould could take on a role with the Blues.
Meanwhile it was previously rumoured that brother of Hull FC coach Tony Smith and father of Leeds boss Rohan Smith former Wakefield Trinity boss Brian Smith could also join the regime as they try to remedy a few poor years of not fulfilling their potential as the obvious favourites.