New South Wales State of Origin coach Brad Fittler has banned mobile phones in a bid to get his players bonding ahead of next week’s series opener.
Members of the Blues squad are not allowed to use their phones when with teammates, meaning screen time during meetings, training sessions or meals is strictly prohibited.
It is an approach designed to foster relationships among an inexperienced playing group, with New South Wales set to field 11 Origin debutants at the MCG on June 6.
“Phones won’t help you win a game,” Fittler said.
“We’re trying to communicate the old way by talking. It’s a bit hard. Josh Addo-Carr, we’re still working on him at the moment.
“We’re trying that talking thing. It’s going okay, we’re getting there.”
Melbourne Storm star Addo-Carr laughed at – and denied – suggestions he had been struggling with the rule, insisting the rule was “common sense.”
“Just chuck it in your bag, have a conversation and get to know everyone, their backgrounds,” he said.
“We’re only here for a short amount of time and we’ve got to do our best to gel.”
‘It makes perfect sense’
Dr Christine Satchell, an expert in mobile phone culture from Queensland University of Technology, said that while it was likely Fittler experienced initial reservations from players, his plan was a smart one.
“Phones provide connectivity to another geographical place and people,” she told The New Daily.
“They can provide connection when people have none but they can also stop interaction and bonding between people.
“That’s why this makes perfect sense to me.”
Dr Satchell also said phones could be a “massive time waster” if used often in a scenario where time was of the essence.
“Phones are a portal for a range of activities but they can be just so time consuming and distracting,” she said.
“You can do so many things on them and they can be a massive time waster if you’re trying to get something done.
“It is quite extraordinary how people rely on phones these days but they can be very useful tools, too.”
Following the example
Fittler has used the tactic before, as coach of the New South Wales City side.
Addo-Carr should be used to it, too, with prominent Sydney journalist Roy Masters writing about how Melbourne Storm realised they had a “phone problem” in a column published by Fairfax last year.
In the piece, Masters referred to a camp in New South Wales, writing: “That night in 2014 at the Storm’s hotel, the Crown Plaza in Terrigal, the coaching staff noticed something bizarre at dinner.
“There were two tables, each of 10 players and only two players were talking to each other. Eighteen were speaking on mobile phones, texting, scrolling through emails or using apps.
“An immediate ban on the use of mobile phones at team meetings and meals was imposed, with $50 fines levied, even for a phone ringing that went unanswered.”
Masters then wrote about how he observed after a 2017 victory that Storm players “had dinner and then broke up into groups of about eight, playing cards and chatting” at the team hotel until the early hours of the morning.
It is clearly a tactic that has worked for the Storm.
Other sports teams have tried it, too, with English football club Sunderland banning them from training altogether in 2013.
Then-manager Paolo Di Canio famously claimed he would throw any phones he found – even in a bag – “in the North Sea”.
Players in most sporting codes are no longer allowed to use phones in changing rooms on match day due to concerns about potential contact between players and betting agencies.
What do you think about this rule? Is it a smart move? Or has Fittler gone too far? Let us know in the comments below.