'Didn't Meet Expectations': Fittler's Brutally Honest Latrell Mitchell Feedback
You've got to hand it to NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler. The man does NOT mince his words.
There's an outcry over the axing of NSW strike weapon Latrell Mitchell from the NSW Blues team for State of Origin Game II in Perth.
The reason for the fuss? Twofold.
Firstly, the Roosters centre wasn't told directly by coach Fittler that he'd been axed, and instead found out while he was playing for the Roosters yesterday arvo.
To this, an appropriate response is "boohoo". The man earns a lot of money chasing a ball around a field. He knows the unwritten rule. Play well, get picked. Don't, and you don't. No explanatory phone calls required.
The second reason for the outcry is the theory that Mitchell did not deserve to be dropped after just one poor showing at Origin level. He is, after all, one of the NRL's premier attacking weapons..
To this, an appropriate response is "yeah, nah". But mostly "nah".
While there is merit in the "pick-and-stick" approach to selecting teams in any sport, Brad Fitter gave some compelling reasons for ditching Mitchell. Indeed, he delivered some of the most refreshing honesty you'll ever hear from a coach.
"[Dropping Latrell] was the hardest thing I've had to do . I made the decision today," he said after the team was announced.
"We have expectations and he didn't meet those expectations. We really need our players to work hard for each other, and at the end of the day, Queensland wanted it more than us."
That, right there, is the closest thing you'll hear in a long time to a coach saying a big name player didn't put in the required effort. It's generally a taboo in sport to say stuff like that. But Fittler put it out there.
And then, because he's tough but fair, he saved some words of kindness and encouragement for Mitchell.
"I just hope he gets his smile back and his swagger, and it won't be too long before he's playing rep footy."
Meanwhile, amid seven changes made by the Blues, the recalled James Maloney delivered a few truths of his own, as well as a few laughs.
When the 12-match Origin veteran was asked whether he thought he'd ever win his Blues jersey back after being dropped for game one, he quipped:
"I don't know, really. If you know me, I don't think that much!"
Maloney then added his two cents' worth on the coaching panel:
"It's a harsh environment and decisions are made on one-off performances. But at the end of a day, we've got a really good coach and selection panel, and they know what's going on.
"We'll back the guys that are there and we'll be out there squaring the series up."
We'll know whether the 33-year-old Penrith Panther's confidence is justified come Game II in Perth this Sunday night.