Just one year after being branded the worst signing in rugby league history, an emotional Adam Blair says he never gave up hope of pulling on his beloved Kiwi jumper again.
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney announced six rookies in an 18-man squad to take on the Kangaroos
at Allianz Stadium on May 2 – but the return of Blair completes a stunning comeback.
"It's hard [to take]," Blair said after finding out news of his selection after Sunday afternoon's 22-6 loss to Gold Coast.
"I had no idea. I got texts from 'Mooks' (Kearney) saying to keep working on what I do well and that's about it. Being out of it for a couple of years and then working really hard to get back in there, it's finally paid off."
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Blair said he always believed he would return to the international arena.
"I always thought I always a chance to be back in there," he said.
"I just had to make sure things went my way and I just never gave up on wanting to be back playing for New Zealand and I think I've worked really hard the last couple of years. This year, I think, all the hard work's paying off slowly."
Heralded as a major coup after moving from Melbourne to the Tigers at the end of 2011, Blair had been largely underwhelming in his first two years at Concord. But the 28-year-old said a switch to lock mid-last year re-invigorated his game and he has been one of the team's most consistent performers this season.
"When the move was made, my job was a little bit simple," he said.
"Before then, it was a little bit all over the shop, I didn't really have a clue on what my job was. Once I made my move to the middle, it just narrowed my focus down to just doing my job really well and I think that's worked good for me coming into the season."
Teammate Martin Taupau also earned his first call-up and coach Mick Potter praised both selections.
"They deserve to be picked. They've been consistently really good players for us, two of our best," he said.
"Marty played a lot of reserve grade last year and Blairy, I thought, has been consistent. As much as you guys don't tend to give him too much of a wrap, he's been really, really good for the Tigers.
"Even last year and this year, he's been steadily building and does all those little things that not too many people clap about, but they matter to the team and I think he'd be a good asset to the [Kiwi] team."
Potter said Blair has been key to his side's resurgence so far in 2014.
"He was playing on the edge early last year and just the move to the middle has facilitated that a little bit and he's enjoyed all the involvement he's had in the middle," he said.
"At times he's been criticised for lacking involvement but when you're stuck on the edge it's hard to get yourself in the game. I think he's fixed that and he's certainly one of our key players."
With six rookies expected to line-up against the current World Cup champions, Blair expected his inexperienced countrymen to make a stand.
"It's a big step up for everyone that's been picked. No one's going to give the team a chance," he said.
"But I think once that jersey's put on, everyone seems to lift another clear, and that'll show come Friday night once the Test match is on. No matter who you are or how many games you've played, everyone grows a leg."GET YOUR TICKET TO THE TRANS-TASMAN TEST HERE