Former Australia captain Fittler has taken over from Laurie Daley as the Blues look to relax Queensland’s Origin stranglehold, having lost the past three series and 11 of the last 12.
Fittler, the most capped NSW player with 31 Origin games, is trying something out of left-field to overcome the Maroons, who are in a transitional phase with the retirements of greats Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
Among his more unorthodox techniques is using yoga to stretch his players’ bodies and breathing sessions each day to find peace amid the high-pressure build-up to the Melbourne opener.
“It’s about conscious breathing – it’s about clearing your head,” Fittler said. “The players can take a bit of time out and reduce the stress.”
Fittler goes into battle with the most inexperienced NSW Origin squad in 34 years.
Combined, they have just 39 matches-worth of experience. Queensland captain Greg Inglis has 30 on his own while his Maroons team have 112 Origin caps.
Fittler has chosen a pacey backline, stacked with some of the National Rugby League’s fastest players including winger Joshua Addo-Carr, James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell in the centres, and all guided by the Penrith scrum-base pair James Maloney and Nathan Cleary.
“Once you get players at this level, who are this fast, who are this powerful and strong and you give them 10-days together, we get this unbelievable result, this unbelievable game of footy,” Fittler said.
His counterpart Kevin Walters must do without the experience of former skipper Smith and playmakers Thurston and Cronk, and is looking to Inglis to inspire his team inside the cauldron of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
“I know how Greg will play. He will lead from the front. If he can do that I will be really confident sitting in the coach’s box,” Walters said.
“I would not want anyone else but Greg right now in the situation we have found ourselves in.”
Queensland suffered a late blow today (June 4) when Test fullback Billy Slater withdrew with a hamstring injury.
Anthony Milford and Kalyn Ponga were called into the squad.
New South Wales: James Tedesco; Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell, James Roberts, Josh Addo-Carr; James Maloney, Nathan Cleary; David Klemmer, Damien Cook, Reagan Campbell-Gillard; Boyd Cordner (capt), Tyson Frizell; Jack de Belin.
Interchange: Paul Vaughan, Jake Trbojevic, Angus Crichton, Tyrone Peachey.
Queensland: Michael Morgan; Valentine Holmes, Greg Inglis (capt), Will Chambers, Dane Gagai; Cameron Munster, Ben Hunt; Dylan Napa, Andrew McCullough, Jarrod Wallace; Gavin Cooper, Felise Kaufusi; Josh McGuire.
Interchange: Anthony Milford/Kalyn Ponga, Josh Papalii, Coen Hess, Jai Arrow.