Warriors veteran Adam Blair stays in the fight to reach NRL's 300 club
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/113404854/-

2019-06-11 06:53:00

Ask his Warriors teammates to name the defining trait of Adam Blair, and almost to a man the response will be his competitiveness.

It's a big part of why Stephen Kearney brought him to the club last year, hoping his hard edge would rub off on the younger players. And the veteran forward has needed to use every ounce of his competitive nature in recent weeks to get back into the team.

Blair on Friday will become only the third Kiwi to bring up 300 NRL appearances when the Warriors meet the Titans on the Gold Coast.

It looked like the 33-year-old would have to wait a while longer when he was dropped to reserve grade last month following a poor start to the season.

Blair was the first to admit he was not up to standard but ever since he first left the small Northland community of Panguru for the Melbourne Storm as a teenager, he has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

And that cleary hasn't changed.

"For me, I left all my family at 16. I didn't want to be that person that failed and went away and came back to Panguru or Whangarei and all your mates ask what happened," Blair said.

"I guess I'm a competitor and I put a lot of pressure on myself. If it didn't work out, I was staying over there (Australia) anyway so I wouldn't have those people asking me the question."

Blair's induction into the illustrious 300 club, alongside New Zealand legends Rubin Wiki and Simon Mannering, is the continuation of a remarkable career, albeit one with several twists and turns.

In 14 seasons of first grade, he has played in 11 finals series, winning a premiership with Melbourne in 2009 (which was later stripped due to the salary scandal) while helping the Broncos to the 2015 decider.

He's also played a key part in the Kiwis' success since the 2008 World Cup triumph, and with 48 tests, is the second most capped player in New Zealand history.

Yet Blair has been a hugely polarising figure since joining the Warriors.

There may have been some resentment lingering amongst fans from the Kiwis' embarrassing 2017 World Cup performance, which he led as captain. While his critics argue that he is over the hill, prone to giving away silly penalties and simply does not make enough impact to justify his high pay packet.

Blair gave them plenty of ammunition earlier this season when he recorded just one run for 13 metres in the Anzac Day defeat to Melbourne, two weeks after making only 25 metres against the Rabbitohs.

While his return has not coincided with any results in the win column, he did respond to his axing against the Panthers with the 'players' player' performance against Broncos, before putting in a heavy defensive shift in last week's loss to the Storm.

Blair may not be a huge metre-eater but Warriors five-eighth Kodi Nikorima, who also played with him at the Broncos, says there are a number of reasons why he is rated so highly by coaches like Wayne Bennett, which are not necessarily evident on the stats sheet.

"I think just his competitive nature," Nikorima said.

"The things he brings to teams that go unnoticed are the effort areas, getting in the kick-chase, leading the line-speed, tying in, all those little things.

"He's always been big on that and I think that's why these coaches sign him. I know Wayne Bennett had big raps on 'Blairy' and he was actually sad to see him go."

Criticism of his game this season has been fierce, but nothing he's not used to.

Blair was regularly panned by the Sydney press during three forgettable seasons with the Wests Tigers.

Having only known success with the Storm between 2006-11, he never got close to living up to expectations at the Tigers, with one media outlet questioning if he was the NRL's worst ever signing.

It was a rude awakening for Blair but also a turning point as he went on to reinvent himself at the Broncos.

"I didn't really expect the media stuff down there (Sydney) but found out pretty quickly what it was like, and that most probably grew me into the person I am today," he said.

That experience has certainly come in handy this year.

"Without a doubt. When times are tough individually performance-wise, you draw back on those performances that you've gone through.

"You think about what got you out of those positions and then you keep ticking all the boxes and working hard because at some point, everything does change if you work hard enough and want it enough."

Having admitted the milestone had weighed on his mind in recent weeks, Blair will spend little time reflecting this week.

He just wants to find some consistency and get the Warriors a much-needed two points.

"You could say it was a bit of a hindrance on me but I'm here now, really excited, happy that I'm back in the team playing football again."

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