The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.


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.

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