“Origin needs a crowd. And a lot of the time crowds bring that pressure, and players will either rise to the moment or they won’t, and that’s what makes our heroes. The ones who handle Origin best are the ones who end up the best players in the game.”
Players whose clubs bomb out of the finals race could go six weeks without a game before the first Origin clash. There is also the fear those players who win the grand final might struggle to recover mentally in time for the representative blockbuster series.
Fittler, however, said neither group of players would be disadvantaged based on his own experience when playing.
“It’s something that has been consistent with rugby league for 100 years where players don’t play in semi-finals and then go on to play for Australia,” Fittler said. “You just need to find a way to get it done. We’d probably have a train-on squad. We used 25 players last year. But how many would you take in? That’s a conversation we’d have to have with ‘Troddo’ [NSWRL boss Dave Trodden], the NRL and RLPA.
“And having won and lost a few grand finals, I know when it comes to going on to play for NSW or Australia, you never feel tired or fatigued.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this week said it was unlikely Origin would be played north of the border this year because of the COVID-19 restrictions, which prompted Trodden to cheekily volunteer to host all three games in Sydney.
The game’s innovation committee, Project Apollo, is happy for Origin to be played in the middle of the season, but over a condensed month-long block on a Wednesday, Sunday and Wednesday basis. The timing would also ensure the Origin series – and the millions of dollars it brings to the game – would not be lost by a potential second COVID-19 outbreak if it was left later on the calendar.
Fittler has always stressed the need for Sydney clubs to do well if the Blues are to succeed and knows that rule could apply more than ever this year, especially if the series is scheduled for October.