THAT’S MY BALL BOY
NSW coach Brad ‘Freddy’ Fittler is taking his promise to turn the Blues into one big Origin family seriously — including signing up his boy Zach, and the sons of other league greats, as ball boys for this week’s series opener in Melbourne. Fittler hopes his philosophy — and his team of debutantes — will translate into the first series win since 2014.
THEY’LL HAVE A FRONT ROW SEAT TO THE EMOTION Blues coach Freddy Fittler
AS if a record 11 NSW Origin debutants wasn’t enough for excited NSW coach Brad Fittler.
He has also selected another set of rookies for the Blues’ Origin I showdown with Queensland at the MCG on Wednesday night.
Keeping it all in the family, Fittler’s son Zach, 12, will join Blues adviser Greg Alexander’s sons Beau, 10, and Ben, nine, and NSW assistant coach Danny Buderus’ son Lachlan, seven, as ball boys.
“It will be awesome — I can’t wait to see them down on the sideline, especially if we’ve won,’’ Fittler told The Sunday Telegraph.
“They’ll have a front-row seat to all the emotion.’’
Fittler has made a point of including the players’ wives, girlfriends and families during the team’s preparation, highlighted by a family barbecue in Coogee last Friday. The appointment of the ball boys is an extension of Fittler’s desire to ensure the excitement of Origin is enjoyed by those closest to him and his team.
And while the boys all play junior rugby league, it will be their Origin debut in more ways than one.
Having never stepped foot on the MCG, the Blues quartet are also limited in ball-boy experience.
“I can’t say I’ve done anything like this before,’’ Zach Fittler said. “I’m so excited. When I told my mates at school that I’m going to be the NSW Blues ball boy, they asked if they could come.’’
Ben Alexander, whose godpar- ents are Fittler and his wife Marie, said: “I don’t know what to expect. I’ll make sure I know the rules.”
Alexander said the boys knew just how lucky they were. “I’ve actually never played on the MCG myself, so for the boys to be up there in front of 80,000 on Origin night will be unbelievable and a great experience,’’ he said.
Fittler joked that he would consider having a word with the boys if the Maroons got out of hand on Wednesday night.
“If they look like they’re trying to speed up the game, I might just remind the boys whose team they’re working for,’’ he laughed.
The Blues’ trouble-free countdown towards Origin I will continue today when they train for the final time in Sydney before flying to Melbourne.
The entire squad will train at the SCG for the one and only time of their 10-day preparation — a deliberate tactic by Fittler to have his players ready for the unfamiliar oval shape of the MCG.
NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler and his son Zach, who will be the ball boy for Game 1. Pictures: Sam Ruttyn
Greg Alexander with his son Ben.