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Freddy’s last stand and the make-or-break call that could define his Origin legacy

Fittler’s current contract expires if NSW fail to win the 2023 series, but with two back-to-back wins an extension is triggered for next year.

The odds are stacked against NSW, however, with Fittler admitting this Suncorp Stadium clash will be the biggest test of his storied career as both a player and coach.

Fittler was appointed Blues coach ahead of the 2018 series and was tasked with turning fortunes around after superstar-studded Queensland won 11 of the 12 series prior.

He’s won three series and lost two, and boasts an 8-8 win-loss record in Origin matches but both his future and his Blues legacy are likely at stake at Suncorp Stadium, especially as the Maroons’ new dynasty continues to emerge under Billy Slater.

“I think we all know, and Freddy and Brandy (assistant coach Greg Alexander) would know this too, if they lose this game it’s very unlikely they’re there next year,” rugby league great Braith Anasta said on NRL360.

Fittler’s selections have been scrutinised more than ever this series — he labelled it a “circus” after revealing his Origin II team — and he was always going to live and die by a number of self-described “gambles” in this series.

Fittler’s decision to name Tevita Pangai Junior in the series opener appeared to backfire, while his use of Dally M Medallist Nicho Hynes in Game I, and subsequent dropping of the Cronulla halfback, was met with even more criticism.

The jury is also still out on his backing of Canberra star Hudson Young, who underwhelming on debut.

The 51-year-old Fittler’s tenure has been hallmarked by some bold gambles, to mixed results.

During his first game in charge, he selected a staggering 11 debutants for the 2018 series opener — handing Nathan Cleary, Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr their debuts, among others — a move that paid dividends.

Then in 2019, after losing Game I by only four points Fittler swung the axe, dumping seven players including Mitchell who had cemented himself as an NRL star.

NSW then went on to win 36-6 in Perth before securing the series with a 26-20 win on home soil.

But other bold decisions haven’t paid off — like when Fittler selected four forwards on the bench for the 2020 series decider.

A move he later admitted was a blunder when James Tedesco left the field concussed, shifting Isaah Yeo to the outside backs before Queensland secured a narrow win.

He also snubbed in-form playmaker Cody Walker in the series opener that year in favour of Luke Keary who was axed after one 80-minute display.