MVPs of 2014: Adam Blair
As we count down to season 2014, NRL.com identifies 30 players who will be crucial to their team's fortunes this year. From new faces to rising stars to proven performers who will need to lift this season, these are our 'MVPs' for 2014.
It was back in May last year when a raging bull took aim at an uncaged lion and ended with the latter being rag-dolled by the metaphorical collar and left at the mercy of whoever wanted a piece of it next.
The raging bull, of course, is Origin legend Gorden Tallis. And the uncaged lion he was referring to? That part was being played by Wests Tigers disappointment Adam Blair.
"I read an article where he was going to the Wests Tigers with him saying he was like a caged lion (at Melbourne) and that he could start playing football now," Tallis said at the time.
The Broncos and Dragons legend, whose major talent now is calling a spade a spade and an under-performing player a train wreck, certainly didn't miss when he locked in on Blair following a sub-par performance against the Sharks early last season.
"He is one of the highest-paid Wests Tigers players," Tallis continued. "He asked for that money and if you are prepared to take that money, put out your hand and watch your bank account grow every week, you have to be prepared to put your body on the line."
As far as metaphorical rag-dolling by the collar goes, it was almost as good as the real one Tallis pulled on Brett Hodgson during the 2002 Origin series.
Ever since Blair's move to Tigerland, it's been difficult to remember that he was once a staple in the Kiwis team. In fact, in his previous incarnation as a Storm enforcer, he was a three-time grand finalist too.
He was one of New Zealand's heroes in their 2008 World Cup triumph, an heir to Benji Marshall's throne, and considered worthy enough to extend Melbourne's much-vaunted 'Big Three' to what was then regarded as their 'Fabulous Four'.
And that was all before he turned 26.
But with the dawn of the 2014 season upon us, it seems age is the only light in what is an otherwise dark tunnel for Blair.
Rugby league fans have the shortest of memories, but a quick look at the resume shows that the man many have labelled the worst signing in Tigers history is still as well-credentialed as they come. There aren't many players who come with over 165 games of NRL experience, plus success at the highest level.
His reunion with former Storm teammate David Kidwell, who's been brought in to patch up the Tigers' horrific missed-tackle rate (3rd most in the NRL in 2013), could also be key in not only sparking Blair into form, but also shoring up what is a young defensive unit.
Blair, whether fans like it or not, is a significant piece in what is essentially a rebuilding year at Concord.
Sure, to describe his first two years at the club as underwhelming would be an understatement. But so is underestimating the power of an uncaged lion. At some stage, that animal is going to come out and hurt somebody. Wests fans will be dearly hoping this is the year Blair fires up and has the impact the club wanted all along.