Pedantic Freddy spending lot of time on the grass
THE grass isn't always greener on the other side. But ahead of a potential series-clinching victory in State of Origin II on Sunday, NSW fans are hoping they've found the promised land under amateur horticulturalist Brad Fittler.
He may be an Origin coaching first-timer, but Fittler has proven he is no sideline rookie after going to great lengths to learn everything about the ANZ Stadium surface.
And it perhaps goes some way to explaining the Blues' new craze of earthing. Fittler is the only coach to have approached ANZ Stadium curator Graeme Logan over the past 20 years, and he even visited a turf farm out at Windsor earlier this year.
"Well, they play on grass. They play on surfaces. So it'd be a real lack of attention to detail if I didn't understand the grass," Fittler told AAP.
The Homebush venue is widely considered a slippery surface for regular NRL games - a belief Logan dispels as a "myth".
Not only does he point out the lack of airflow in the enclosed stadium, but the groundsmen also apply a water repellent that lasts more than a week.
"It (the slippery surface) is a bit hyped up," Logan says.
"You get sick and tired of people saying it's wet and slippery. People comment about it and they're not players. And then you speak to the Cameron Smiths and whatnot, no one has an issue with it.
"(Freddie) is funny, but he does have a real interest in it. He'll ring or we'll catch up and say, 'How are we looking? He'll ask if the rye grass is coming through, so he really understands it.
"Freddie is very knowledgeable. We liaise quite a bit with Freddie, which is great because he's got a vested interest in how it works. We speak to him weekly about it so he gets the update."
It is just the latest kooky trait Blues fans are learning about the Origin champion as he attempts to claim a breakthrough series victory in just his first attempt as coach.
From salsa nights, to barefoot sessions, yoga, walking to the stadium on game day, and a mobile phone ban, the 46-year-old has broadened the horizon of all 21 players brought in over the two camps so far.
Fittler believes ANZ Stadium is in the best condition it has ever been and he is banking on a dry track to help flyers Josh Addo-Carr, James Roberts and James Tedesco against Queensland.
"There's more grass on there than ever, it's a vastly different field to the MCG. The boys with footwork will be very happy when they get out here, it's in great nick," he said.