Fittler and Kimmorley – Wanted Dead or Alive

Brad Fittler and Brett Kimmorley
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

The National Rugby League is one hell of a code. One moment you can have two former Playmakers aged just five years apart in the form of Brad Fittler (50) and Brett Kimmorley (45) breaking year-long dynasties and having the luxury of calling matches from the sideline. In contrast, the next instance has witnessed them thrown into utter chaos. With Fittler needing his Blues side to engineer a victory in Brisbane to hoist the State of Origin Shield aloft, Kimmorley has a job and a half dauntingly facing him at the Tigers.

‘Freddie’ in his heyday earned thirty-one caps representing New South Wales and thirty-eight for Australia, where he bagged an astonishing seventeen four-pointers. As for the ‘Man from Belmont’, anyone with half a sporting brain knows what he achieved within the game. In his countless accolades, three-hundred and seven NRL matches played, some of which were for his local Hunter Mariners and Newcastle Knights.

On Fittler’s to-do list is a win at costs at Suncorp Stadium; it seems relatively straightforward, right? Well, maybe not when you consider NSW have won just five of their previous sixteen encounters at Suncorp Stadium. Or that the Blues haven’t been able to clinch a series victory there since 2005. Whilst Kimmorley’sley’s to-do list is getting his side challenging for the Top Eight, a position the west  Tigers haven’t held for the last ten seasons and thirteen of the previous fifteen.

Here’sere’s what both coaches need to do to go from zero to hero and restore some much salivated after glory.

Keeping things the same for the in-form Blues.

For Fittler, as the adage goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Despite the series score currently level at 1-1, the Blues have all the momentum after their recent 44-12 masterclass at Optus Stadium. They ran in seven tries to two, ran for m’s and m’s to 1035 and missed just twenty-three tackle attempts vs the Maroons fifty-six. If they were ever going to beat Queensland at Suncorp Stadium, they currently possess the recipe.

Halfback Nathan Cleary bounced back after an awful Game One performance with two tries and two try assists for twenty-four points. While his partner in crime and fellow Panther Jarome Luai locked down one try, four tackle-breaks and completed fourteen of his nineteen attempted tackles (74% completion rate). Those two ran the show, and the players surrounding them like Matt Burton, Daniel Tupou and Jake Trbojevic complemented them exceptionally well. Why poke holes at the monster that humbled Billy Slater & Co?

Another rebuild should be in store for the poor old Tigers.

Kimmorley needs to do the complete opposite and run the broom throughout most of his Tigers squad. The first person to be booted, you ask? Luke (insert whatever word you want) Brooks. Rumours have been circulating recently that the Tigers want to dispose of him. There have been suggestions that the franchise might pay part of his salary to eliminate him. He’s earning 1.1m this season, a ridiculous number for any club on just three wins for the season to be paying any athlete.

In thirteen games played this campaign, the ‘wan’away’ Halfback has already made fourteen errors, given up seven penalties and been put on report once. And it was only two seasons ago that he conjured up just three try assists from seventeen games. By no means am I saying he’s a bad player or even a lousy bloke for that matter, but even Stevie Wonder would be able to see that he and Wests don’t mesh. Additionally, it would appear Jackson Hastings is the much better Halves leader and a heck of a lot cheaper too.

He isn’t the only one to whom the Tigers should show the door. Another example is James Tamou. What the hell is the 33-year-old doing wasting his final years in Leichardt? He should be fighting for a Premiership, not the Wooden Spoon. James Roberts is just another player at this point in his career and not even a reclamation project at that, with the Centre now having represented five clubs throughout his time in the NRL. Plus, the injury bug has bitten him badly. He’s contested only four games this season, scoring zero tries. Most of those don’t sound like competitors and players who have any right to pull on the once respected and feared Orange and Black jersey.

However, as quickly as things could turn into gold for both legends, events could continue to transpire as they have recently been New SWales’sles’s shock 16-10 G1 defeat and West’s merry-go-round of coaches, making it seven in total since 2012.

Slick Billy Slater is doing it all over again for Queensland.

As I mentioned, Brisbane is a testy place for any Blues team to play at, including this one. And playing in front of a sea of Maroon is not for the faint-hearted. Those supporters, at what should be a sell-out game, will be the extra man for Queensland. The likes of Cameron Murray and Damien Cook already have scarring memories of the venue via last season’s tight Grand Final defeat to Penrith. And despite Queensland having a weaker side on paper than their counterparts no denying the underlying passion of Dane Gagai, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans and Josh Papalii when it comes to leading their side on the field. And Selwyn Cobbo has made Suncorp his playground this season, scoring six of his eleven Broncos tries there.

You also cannot deny the impact of Billy Slater. He’s a player who has turned himself from one of the best-ever Fullbacks into the Maroon’s head coach. And as we witnessed in G1, he outclassed and outcoached Fittler thoroughly as the ex-Storm player showed what he is capable of. He was also an integral part of the historic Queensland team that won eight straight series and eleven out of twelve from 2006 to 2017.
He started Cobbo and Reuben Cotter and gave Patrick Carrigan significant game time in both matches. Ballsy decisions paid off handsomely for the rookie coach with those players being rookies in the State of Origin arena themselWho’sWho’s to say Slcan’tcan’t pull off another upset at one of his spiritual homes?

West’s mediocrity is every chance of continuing long into the future.

With bad contracts, pissed-off, underperforming players and more coaches in recent years than games won (may as well be true, to be honest), the club is a basket case at the moment. Multiple coaches have reportedly rejected the club’s advances including highly rated Penrith assistant and Italian national team head coach Cameron Cirlado. For god’s sake, they sacked Premiership-winning Rabbitoh Michael Maguire only to bring in the vastly inexperienced Kimmorley! As pathetic as the players have been, the board have been equally as trash. How would Kimmorley change any of that? Try as he might! If he sticks with it, it will still be a difficult road ahead for him and the club.

Signing players such as Isaiah Papali’l is a good start for the team; there’s still a long, long way to go before they reach contending for a Premiership once again. The Backrower will add a lot of toughness to their Forward Pack and bring some much-needed mongrel into the equation, which is something they’ve sorely lacked over recent campaigns. Getting former players such as Benji Marshall back to the club in an off-field capacity, as they’ve recently done, should also help initiate a robust cultural shift. Many, many more moves such as these need to be made. But at lKimmorley’sley’s been getting some assistance during his short tenure with the Tigers.

Time is often a dictator of many things, and here it is no different. Only time will tell whether Brad Fittler and Brett Kimmorley fly high or fall low. However, what they do with that time will ultimately decide each of their individual fates. As such, it is often the case in the cruel and unforgiving yet vibrant and rewarding game of Rugby League.

Toby is somebody who is a knowledgeable and passionate sports fan, but none more than the NRL. From a young age, he has been covering and supporting Australia’s greatest code. He has diplomas in both sports and business, while he loves a good laugh, some good food and travelling.

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