Blues legend Brad Fittler has hailed coach Laurie Daley as the unsung hero of NSW’s push for a long overdue State of Origin series win.
Jarryd Hayne’s receiving all the plaudits, but Blues great Brad Fittler has lauded cool coach Laurie Daley for leading NSW to the brink of State of Origin glory.
From the ruins of a diabolical build-up marred by more alcohol off-field controversies, injuries and suspensions, Daley has galvanised the Blues and plotted a heroic, against-the-odds Origin I victory over Queensland at Suncorp Stadium.
Fittler on Friday hailed the second-year Origin coach as the Blues’ unsung hero, saying Daley had shown the same cool head in crisis as he did during his legendary playing days for Canberra, NSW and Australia.
With his reputation on the line, Daley had the courage to axe long-time halfback and pet favourite Mitchell Pearce after his arrest at King’s Cross, while basing the Blues at Coffs Harbour has also proven a masterstroke.
“He’s made some big decisions. He’s backed his staff and backed his players and all sorts of things,” Fittler told AAP.
“Last year he learnt and he worked hard and then this year he realised to win you have to back yourself and make decisions. I think that’s what he did on the field.
“He’s done a really good job. He’s been forthright in what he wants to be done and it seems like the players support what he does and have reacted to it.”
The antithesis of his predecessor, the fiercely intense Ricky Stuart, Daley’s authoritative calmness has brought out the best in the Blues and edged NSW to within one win of breaking Queensland’s eight-year reign.
“He’s got that balance really nice. He’s not a big talker, Loz, so he picks his times right,” Fittler said.
“He gives a lot to the group. He allows them to take ownership. He likes to give them some decision-making and he pulls them together.
“He’s such a good human.”
Naturally laidback, Daley has revealed a steely side during the pressure-filled series.
“It’s an intense time, but he deflects it really well, absorbs it really well,” Fittler said.
“And he looks fit, so that puts him in a good position to be able to handle it.”
Blues vice-captain Robbie Farah said while Daley allowed assistants like Fittler, Trent Barrett and Jim Dymock to do much of the coaching last year, this campaign he’s shown who’s boss.
“This year obviously there’s just Loz and Matty Parish and between the two of them they’ve been a lot more hands-on,” Farah said.
“They’ve been clear in their message on what they want from us and then they’ve put the onus back on us as senior players to really drive that at training.
“He’s a lot more intense when he needs to be and he knows when to switch off.”
Daley and the Blues enjoyed a day off on Friday and will ramp up their build-up with a full-on contact session on Sunday before returning to Sydney ahead of Origin II at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.