Gus exposes Fittler’s real masterstroke
Rugby League legend Phil Gould says Brad Fittler's Game 2 Blues delivered the best performance by a NSW team in more than 10 years.
James Maloney and Tom Trbojevic steered NSW to a historic 38-6 rout of Queensland, sending this year's State of Origin series to a decider at ANZ Stadium.
The Blues' second biggest win in Origin history was built on the seven changes Fittler made after the series-opening loss in Brisbane.
Gould told Channel 9 the key to Fittler's win was in his decision to turn to experienced Origin players for the Perth blockbuster.
"The key element in the selection of this team was experience," Gould told Nine.
"I think NSW got it wrong in Queensland. It is hard to take rookies to that environment, and expect to be able to beat Queensland up there.
"And having to win the series, they resorted to experience. James Maloney coming back, Blake Ferguson on the wing, Tariq Sims, these sorts of players. They brought senior voices back into the group. They brought stability and confidence and from the moment they came into camp, there was a different personality about this team.
"It is now 1-1. They have to go to Sydney and back it up, but I would say on that performance tonight, that's the best NSW performance I've seen in over a decade. It is the most solid 80 minutes of Origin football I've seen them play."
When further pressed on the Blues' extraordinary attitude change after Game 1 and the heat that Fittler was put under after dropping superstar Latrell Mitchell, Gould appeared to bite his tongue.
He vaguely hinted that he will eventually share his opinion on the criticism Fittler received after Game 1 - but his decision not to say anything means the focus will stay on the Blues' fearless performance.
"I might answer that at a different time," Gould said.
"I think one thing NSW has to learn to do is learn to win well.
"The thing NSW hasn't done well and it sometimes comes with experience is win well. They have to walk away from this tonight, get down off the podium and understand it means nothing unless they win game 3. So it is not the time now to be telling anyone what you thought of their criticism or their opinions leading into the game."
Fittler was left looking like a genius with those decisions - sparking the Blues to tie the series.
It was all about the energy of the Blues - and everyone could see it.
"It was awesome. Brilliant effort," Fittler said.
"They worked so hard for each other and that's the thing that came out of Game 1, we didn't quite work that hard for each other and a few players actually lost their position, and
so we had to make up for it tonight and I thought they did a brilliant job."
All over the park, Freddy's Blues wanted it more than Queensland.
Maroons great Paul Vautin showed a four-man tackle on Dane Gagai late in the game with the Blues already securing the win showed how dramatic the attitude change was.
"That epitomises the change of attitude they have had in the last couple of weeks under Brad's coaching," Vautin said.
"What he was talking about earlier, the efforts that are required. It is brilliant Origin football."