It was thus surprising that in 1951 he was lured to the Sturt Football Club in the South Australian competition.
Fitzgerald was clearly attracted to the offer of better paying employment proferred by Sturt. One source has suggested however that the move was engineered by Collingwood powerbroker John Wren at the behest of a political ally in South Australia.
Arriving at Sturt in 1951, Fitzgerald quickly made an impression, being appointed captain after three games, and took over the coaching role mid-season. In 1952 Fitzgerald dominated the League, winning his first Magarey Medal as the "fairest and most brilliant" player in the League. He was to win two more in 1954 and 1959.
Despite Fitzgerald's brilliance, Sturt was unable to secure a premiership. In 1955 Fitzgerald managed to get Sturt to the preliminary final, but the club failed to honour a promise of a bonus. Fitzgerald took himself to the Ovens and Murray League for the next three seasons, coaching and playing for Benalla.
When Fitzgerald returned to Sturt in 1959, he helped them to make the finals that year, the first time since his departure. Injuries began to take their toll on his playing and Fitzgerald finished his playing career in 1962 after playing 127 games for Sturt, kicking 201 goals and winning the club's best and fairest award three times. He represented his adopted State of South Australia 20 times and was named an All Australian in the 1953 Adelaide Carnival.
Fitzgerald coached Glenelg for three seasons after his retirement as a player, but with little success.