‘You’ve already beaten them once’: Phil ‘Gus’ Gould not bothered by damning decider record
Brad Fittler is on the cusp of achieving something historic, becoming only the second New South Wales coach to win back-to-back State of Origin series, following in the footsteps of Rugby League’s greatest mind:
As a player, he was a natural leader, appointed captain of the Penrith Panthers at the tender age of 20, the youngest Rugby League premiership captain since the 1930s.
As a coach, he was a winner. Two premierships with two clubs, Canterbury in 1988 and Penrith in 1991. And then there’s Origin, where a victorious campaign as coach of New South Wales resulted in six series victories, making Gus the most successful Blues coach in history.
As a figure, he transcends the game itself. Towering broadcaster, ground-breaking administrator, opinion maker whose insights and critiques shape the evolution of Rugby League.
Hours out from one of the most anticipated State of Origin clashes in a generation, Phil Gould recalls the scale of the task at hand when he assumed the Blues coaching gig in 1992. Origin had been running for 10 years and Queensland had taken the shield home on seven occasions.
“They were difficult times in the early stages, getting my head around what Origin football was, I’d watched it all and seen Queensland’s dominance, but it only took a couple of days at New South Wales training to work out what our problem was, it had to come from the players – which it did,” Gus tells David Morrow and Mathew Thompson on Heroes: Legends of Australian Sport.
“I said ‘if we keep doing what we’ve done, we’re just going to get beaten like everyone else, this needs to be different,’
“It was just a great group, and they became the first New South Wales team to win three Origin series in a row, and in 1994 became the first New South Wales team to win a decider at Lang Park.”
The similarities between Gould’s era as Origin coach and Fittler’s are notable for one key reason: both took over the reins after a prolonged period of Maroon dominance.
While New South Wales will start as favourites tonight, Gould cites a worrying statistic which must have kept the Blues awake at night.
“[Queensland] have won the last seven deciders, which I find ridiculous.
“I think if you’re in a decider it means the opposition is beatable, you’ve already beaten them once to get there, you would think that on seven occasions you could handle the third game right and win it, but Queensland have just done it better.”
Click PLAY to hear Phil ‘Gus’ Gould on Heroes: Legends of Australian Sport: