NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler meets Olympic legend Usain Bolt at Central Coast Mariners training on Tuesday. Picture: Brett Costello
NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler meets Olympic legend Usain Bolt at Central Coast Mariners training on Tuesday. Picture: Brett Costello

Risk-taker Fittler applauds Bolt’s ambition

TELL Brad Fittler there are people who want to see this whole Usain Bolt thing fail and he sounds incredulous.

"You're kidding me?" Fittler says.

"Here's a guy who could be anywhere in the world, absolutely anywhere, and he chooses to be here, in Gosford, trialling for a football contract.

"How could anyone begrudge that? It's an incredible story".

Seated now in the western grandstand of Central Coast Stadium, Fittler is watching Bolt sweat through yet another opposed session - wearing gloves, as usual, and on the left wing - as preparations ramp up for his Australian football debut on Friday night.

Officially, the NSW Origin coach is here to meet and share ideas with new Mariners Sports Director Mike Phelan, who spent five years alongside Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

But, unofficially?

"How could I visit," Fittler shrugs, "and not watch the fastest man ever?"

Indeed, in Freddy and Lightning, you have two sporting greats who undoubtedly share the same spirit animal.

Bolt, the Olympic sprinter now risking his reputation on becoming a footballer.

And Fittler, the Origin coach who not only went and picked a team of representative rookies - fellas covered in question marks like Damien Cook, Latrell Mitchell, even Josh Addo-Carr - but then had them remove shoes, toss away phones and breeeeath.

Better, it worked.

So well in fact, Mariners coach Mike Mulvey is now considering a similar mobile phone ban within his own squad.

And, sure, initially Freddy has his detractors.

 

Usain Bolt at Central Coast Mariners training on Tuesday. Picture: Brett Costello
Usain Bolt at Central Coast Mariners training on Tuesday. Picture: Brett Costello

 

Just as now, footballing purists shout down Bolt's tilt as a circus.

Convinced that if this Jamaican sprint king does secure an A-League contract - or, worse, actually bangs one into the back of the net - it will somehow detract from their competition, their code, even their own lifetime's dedication to the beautiful game.

But through Fittler's eyes?

Well, this is the fella who went and turned everything we league purists knew about Origin on its head.

Yoga, earthing, centres with questionable defence … Fittler went and mixed them all with more than a splash of hard work.

Like Bolt, risking his reputation on an elixir of sweat and belief.

"Which I was thinking about on the drive up here," Fittler says. "How if we lost this year's series, even by a couple of points, everything would've blown up in our faces."

And your philosophies?

 

NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler speaks to the Central Coast Mariners players on Tuesday. Picture: Brett Costello
NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler speaks to the Central Coast Mariners players on Tuesday. Picture: Brett Costello

 

"Well," he shrugs, "everyone would've thought they were bullshit."

Yet just as Bolt believes he can be a footballer, so Fittler convinced an entire State they were no joke, right?

"We picked the right players," he insists.

"Yes, I believed in what we were doing. But we also worked hard.

"And eventually it all came down to those 10 minutes (in Origin II) where we defended our way to victory with 12 men.

 

Usain Bolt during Central Coast Mariners training on Tuesday. Picture: Brett Costello
Usain Bolt during Central Coast Mariners training on Tuesday. Picture: Brett Costello

 

"I'm extremely grateful to those players and what they did.

"Without them … (laughs) I guess everyone would be calling us a bunch of witch doctors."

 

 

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