‘Better than them’: Freddy’s brutal Maroons takedown
Brad Fittler is convinced NSW's State of Origin title-defence will begin by embarrassing Queensland on their home soil - and it hasn't cost the Blues coach $5000 to believe so.
Exuding self-belief and confidence, the straight-shooting Fittler has delivered his final verdict ahead of the Blues' much-anticipated series opener against the Maroons at Suncorp Stadium.
He declared the 2019 Blues side were superior to the side which returned the State of Origin shield back to the state of NSW by beating Queensland 2-1 in last year's series.
"I know our best is better than theirs,'' Fittler said of Queensland.
"We're going to be better than what we were last year, so they're going to have to go a long way to beat us and I don't know if they can go that far.''
On an eventful day that included Queensland coach Kevin Walters continuing to defend his employment of a "coach whisperer" who usually charges $5500 per hour, Fittler calmly spelt-out why NSW would take a valuable 1-0 nil series lead.
Fittler pointed to a tried and tested Origin relationship between the Blues' most crucial positions, including fullback James Tedesco, halfback Nathan Cleary and hooker Damien Cook, who were critical to their success last year.
And just as crucial, Fittler added Rabbitohs debutants Cody Walker and Cameron Murray were able to work without hesitation during camp thanks to their devastating combination with Cook.
Wednesday's Origin opener is also the first time since 2003 Queensland have been without their biggest guns of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston or Greg Inglis.
"I think we're more confident in each other (than in 2018),'' Fittler said.
"And given there's a lot of changes to their team, I don't know if they can match it.
"Cook has played with Cleary, Cleary has played with Tedesco and (Jake) Trbojevic, Cam Murray has the combination with the Souths (players) … I can only get a guide off training and their training has been better than what was last year."
Fittler was far from dismissive of the Maroons.
As he has done from the moment the Origin series was launched last month, Fittler made a point of highlighting the brilliance of Kalyn Ponga and Cameron Munster.
"I see a lot of potential in their team,'' Fittler said.
"Obviously their fullback, their five-eighth are most probably the best two tackle-break players in the game.
"To just overlook that would be a huge error. They've got a lot of really good players.
"I just think they (NSW players) know each other, they got on really well and they've trained hard.''
Fittler was asked where his drive to go back-to-back with NSW stemmed from having secured series success last year.
"We're on a big path,'' he said.
"NSW footy in general has had a lot of detractors lately for different reasons and we need to be the thing that motivates kids to play.
"I've seen how hard they work at the NSWRL and how little things can really be a challenge and hurt registrations and this (winning State of Origin) is the way we can change.
"This (Origin) will always be our best effort.''
Fittler confirmed hard-running forward Tyson Frizell was a certain-starter after safely passing all of his concession protocols, while the coach added he couldn't care less that Walters had turned to mind coach Bradley Charles Stubbs for inspiration throughout the Queensland preparation.
"At the end of the day, our game is about winning,'' Fittler said.
"What was good and what was bad (about the two teams preparation), it's all hindsight.
"We've gone down what seems to be a different path to them and we support what we're doing.''
The Blues coach said he would remind his players before kick-off to expect nothing from the match officials in front of a crowd expected to be close to 50,000.
"The one thing you do know is that you're not going to get a favour,'' Fittler said.
"You've got no crowd to get you out of trouble.
"Halftime late year we were down 7-2 penalties and 35 per cent of the ball, so we need to play like that is going to happen (again).''