State of Origin 2023: Brad Fittler press conference, NSW loss to QLD, Game 1, highlights, scores, reaction

New South Wales coach Brad Fittler was at a loss after his squad were overrun in yet another Queensland masterclass during the Staate of Origin series opener on Wednesday night.

After being down 10-0 early on the Blues fought back to hold the 18-16 lead before the Maroons did the unthinkable and romped to victory despite playing a man down.

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Fittler said everything started going downhill for his troops after Queensland regained possession with a little over 10 minutes left in the contest.

“When we got to the front I was pretty excited, the fact that the bad start and they just kept going,” Fittler said.

“Although things didn’t look that smooth and we got to the front, got a restart and then from there it just went downhill. I thought the last 10 minutes we didn’t handle very well at all, especially when they were down to 12.

“I’ll go back and look at how that all happened but I thought we were in control, got to the front, got a restart and then from there it sort of went backwards. But that’s the way it is.”

The rugby league great admitted he was disheartened by his team’s failures to capitalise and puncture the QLD defensive line.

“I was actually [surprised],” Fittler said.

“Once again I’ll have to go back and see what they actually did in defence too, to see if that would have made a difference. But it felt like we had enough opportunities to adapt and I was a bit disappointed. We seemed to have a lot of good ball.”

Blues captain James Tedesco echoed a similar sentiment to Fittler, being left in disbelief trying to explain what had unfolded at Adelaide Oval.

“I’m not sure,” he said.

“I felt like it probably wasn’t smooth but I feel like we fought our way back into the game through hard work and effort but we probably just didn’t nail big moments and they did, especially at the end there.

“I felt like we were in control as Freddy said. It felt like we worked hard to get ourselves back in the game and get ourselves in front and then we just wanted to be patient in the last 10 minutes with the ball and then with the dropout we didn’t get the ball back and then [it] sort of went downhill from there.

“I’m not sure what to put that down to. As I said, they nailed some big moments.”

The mood in the Maroons camp was completely opposite as coach Billy Slater and skipper Daly Cherry-Evans shared a few laughs with reporters post-game.

Slater was asked for his thoughts on Origin debutant Reece Walsh’s game, but it was the follow up question after he had praised his debut which had the QLD coach issuing a warning.

“DCE, just on Reece, Billy spoke so highly of him, when you were playing out there with Reece, is it too early to suggest he has something similar to your coach,?” a reporter asked Queensland skipper Daly Cherry-Evans.

“Careful,” Slater chimed with a cheeky grin before Cherry-Evans echoed his coach’s praise.

“Nah look that’s his first game, it’s a great benchmark for him as a player and like Bill said, and he’s a better judge than I am, there’s some foundations in his game that is going to set him up for a long time,” Cherry-Evans answered.

“He was great tonight, he wanted to be in the game when he wasn’t and when he was in the game he was really good.

“I’m really proud of Reece and looking forward to building a combination with him moving forward.”

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