Unfazed by criticism of his early performances for new club Wests Tigers this season, New Zealand back-rower Adam Blair is hoping a standout performance for the Kiwis in tomorrow night’s Anzac Test will help spark his club form to life.
Lured to Sydney from the Storm this year on a hefty $550,000-a-season pay packet, Blair has been labelled a dud buy in some quarters, with the likes of Matthew Johns and Greg Alexander questioning whether the Tigers had spent their money wisely after they slipped to a 1-5 record during the opening six rounds.
But Blair, speaking exclusively to NRL.com, is adamant he will deliver for the Tigers in 2012 and pointed to this week’s Test against Australia as the perfect opportunity to prove a point.
“If I can get a bit of form on Friday night and take that back to the Tigers, it will be good for the club and will help add a lot of confidence to the young squad we’ve got there,” said Blair, admitting that he hadn’t performed as well as he would have liked so far this season.
“It’s been really tough (at the Tigers). Firstly I think the style of play is very different to what I’m used to. Trying to get used to those things week in, week out – I’m slowly getting better but I’m not at my best at the moment.
“As the weeks get on hopefully sooner rather than later I start picking up a few more things and playing some good footy for the club.
“At the moment we’ve got a few injuries at the Tigers so we’re trying to cover a few positions there. Once I nail myself into a position and we know where we’re heading I think it’s only going to be better for the team.
“As I said, it was always going to be hard for myself… but I’m doing the right things at training, doing all the little things right – I’ve just got to get out on the field and start doing some work out there.”
Asked if he was frustrated by criticism of his form and price tag, Blair said: “Not at all. Coming from Melbourne, I didn’t get a lot of publicity and I think moving from Melbourne to Sydney it’s been a bit different. But I haven’t really listened to it that much. I haven’t read the papers that much because I’m used to not reading the paper. I have a lot of family too which keeps me busy – once I get home I’ve got my family to be with. But obviously the criticism is always going to be there.
“In Sydney there is a little bit more expectation on me to be the player that everyone expects me to be. I know what I need to do at training and I think if I concentrate on those things I’ll be fine. I’m only going to get better.”
Blair heads into tomorrow night’s Test match well aware of the responsibility that rests on his shoulders. With only 10 players remaining from the side that faced Australia 12 months ago, Blair’s 24 Tests for the Kiwis makes him their most experienced forward and a key figure in a side boasting three debutantes (Josh Hoffman, Shaun Johnson and Jesse Bromwich).
“I think it’s important that I set a good example for the younger boys that are coming through – especially the young forwards,” he said. “A Test match is a massive step up from NRL and coming up against the Aussies, it’s a massive test for our boys. I try and help out where I can around the field and try to give a little bit of advice. I’m sure they know what to expect but it’s good to have people around that have been there before.”
New Zealand must overcome more than just a strong Kangaroos squad if they hope to prevail tomorrow night – they must also overcome a number of records that don’t bode particularly well for them. The Kiwis have won only five of their past 30 Tests against Australia, have lost both Tests played at Eden Park and haven’t beaten their old foes in a mid-year Test since 1998.
Despite history working against them, Blair said he was excited by the prospects of what this new-look Kiwi side could offer.
“Having these young guys around, it brings a lot of enthusiasm to the team,” he said. “We’ve got a few older heads that have been here for a while so it’s a good mix of leaders and youth, I think. We’ve got a bright future with those guys coming in.
“A guy like Josh Hoffman was unlucky not to play last year and now with Shaun Johnson’s form at the back end of last year, we’re looking good. It’s good to see those boys putting their hand up for selection.
“Obviously Australia have a strong squad… they’ve got some great players there. It will be a really tough game for us and it’s something we need to lift for. But we’re looking forward to it. It is on our home soil.
“Last year we were very disappointed in the efforts we put in (during the Four Nations) so we’ve got a lot to make up there. We’re just looking forward to putting in a big effort and hopefully it will come off.”