Brad Fittler is undeniably City.
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But the Penrith junior, who shot to rugby league stardom as a 17-year-old Panther and later rose to legendary status as a Sydney Rooster, has grown a soft spot for the country.
It’s why he’s just as disappointed his side’s 20-10 win in Sunday’s City-Country at Mudgee will be the last time the fixture is played.
Fittler believes there’s plenty still to be done in regional NSW, and called on everybody in metro areas to embrace the bush, with or with the NRL.
“The big thing you notice from the country, there’s a level of hospitality that is really warm and I think that’d be the case for anyone that drives over the mountains … you’d get that hospitality. It’s a really nice feeling,” Fittler said during the post game.
“I encourage everyone to do it. (It’s) not just taking football games or special occasions like this, it’s time more people drove over the mountains and plonked themselves in a country town and said hello to someone.”
Fittler has coached City now on seven occasions and could argue 2017 was his side’s toughest win.
Built on defence and grit, City hit the lead and clung to it throughout the Mudgee clash, all the while defying Country’s best efforts to lift in front of a vocal Glen Willow crowd.
Winger Josh Addo-Carr and his centre partner Tyrone Peachey were lively all game, drawing praise from their master coach.
But two players, his most experienced at that, stood head and shoulders above the pack.
Simply, without props James Tamou and Paul Gallen, City folds under the relentless pressure Country applied during an early-stages onslaught.
“I had a conversation with Gus on Sunday and told him we were struggling to get a footy team together, but as soon as I knew I had Gal and James Tamou, I knew James Tamou would be ready to go, and I knew whatever I put with them, they knew they’d be going forward. They really saved the day,” Fittler said.
He added a lot is made of the influence of a rugby league spine, the fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker, but for Fittler, two gun props was complete gold.
“And if they’re in order … there’s a level of safety and confidence that comes with having really strong frontrowers,” he finished.
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