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Decisions on ex-teammates tough: Fittler

By Todd Balym 10/07/2007 07:11:06 PM Comments (0)

New Sydney Roosters coach Brad Fittler started his NRL coaching career adamant he could make the tough calls and drop former teammates.

But by the afternoon, when push came to shove, the former Test captain failed to drop a single player from the squad of 17 who produced the club's second worst ever performance last weekend.

Fittler admitted making the tough decisions and confronting his former teammates would be his biggest challenge as a coach.

"For sure, absolutely. That's going to be real tough," he said.

"That's going to be the hard part obviously. I don't know (how I will handle it).

"When we have got to drop someone and make some hard decisions then that's what it's all about ... that's the test."

Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan admitted Fittler would find it difficult being tough on his former teammates - of which eight remain at Bondi Junction - but backed him to make the right decisions.

"Maybe not ruthless enough, ruthless is a very tough word, but he'll make the right decisions, I don't have any doubt about that," Canavan told Sydney radio 2KY.

"He's never been scared about making a decision.

"We haven't got too many left from his era."

Captain Craig Fitzgibbon, a 2002 premiership teammate of Fittler's, said his former captain won't be afraid to swing the axe.

"Whoever said he is not going to make the tough calls probably does not know him very well," Fitzgibbon told Network Ten.

"From playing underneath him when he was captain he was more than happy to give you a baking if you're not doing your job."

Fittler took the reins on Tuesday after coach Chris Anderson resigned overnight citing health concerns.

The Roosters squad contains eight of his former teammates - Fitzgibbon, Craig Wing, Anthony Minichiello, Lopini Paea, Sam Perrett, Anthony Tupou, Sia Soliola and Heath L'Estrange - from his final year playing at the Roosters in 2004.

And the club is in turmoil, coming off a 56-0 loss to Manly, the second heaviest in their 100-year history.

Fittler said his task was to get a winning attitude back into the Tricolours and he backed them by naming the same 17-man squad for the clash with former mentor Ricky Stuart's Cronulla Sharks at Aussie Stadium.

"Obviously we're not in a good head space at the moment," said Fittler.

"It won't get fixed overnight.

"I've got a belief in this team's ability and know we can be just as good as any other team given we can get a plan and then it comes down to attitude.

"It's a tough period and the coach coming out and making a big play like that (quitting) hopefully will be the big catalyst to help us moving forward.

"We are down at Kiama so it's a good opportunity to hopefully use it as a fresh start.

"We just have to get on with it and find out how we can improve.

"That's my job here for another eight weeks. We've got to think of what we can improve on for the next eight weeks."

Fittler spent a restless night mulling over his sudden ascension to the head coaching ranks after just his first year as an assistant.

He says the rest of the season is not just his trial for the fulltime role next year, but him trialling whether it is the career he wants to pursue.

"It's most probably a trial period for everyone," he said.

"A trial period for my family I would say. They will be the ones who have the last say."

Former NSW teammate Andrew Johns backed Fittler to make a success of coaching but warned it would take a huge toll.

"I'm going to take a photo of Brad Fittler today and do another one in a couple of months and see how he goes," said Johns.

"He is one of the best leaders I have played with and it's going to be a challenge for him to be a coach.

"If you have the experience Brad Fittler has, he was in first grade and playing for Australia at 17 and has had some pretty full on life experiences so I think he will be a really good hands-on coach.

"He just needs to get some players back from injury but the club is in turmoil a bit at the moment but hopefully he can turn it around."

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