Humble Friend brings up game 200
For a man who has gone about a 14-year career with a minimum of fuss on the field, Nathan Friend's reaction to playing his 200th Telstra Premiership match was suitably low key this week.
The hard-working hooker will join the exclusive rugby league club on Saturday night against the Eels, but refused make the build up to the clash about himself.
"I guess if we get the victory I will be pretty happy, that's the ultimate for this weekend," 34-year-old Friend said.
"The numbers I will look upon once I retire I guess.
"I am not quite sure what the club has got sorted, I might ask if [the kids] are able to walk out with me."
"His courage is unquestioned, he is fearless and that's what makes him what he is and why he has got to 200." - Warriors coach Andrew McFadden
Friend may have been too humble to soak up the occasion, but teammate Sam Tomkins lauded his efforts, pointing to an all-round professional approach which helps him defy father time.
"It is a great effort for anyone to play 200 games and 'Friendy' is a true pro," Tomkins said.
"He is a bit of a nerd with his preparation and keeps his body in tip-top condition.
"That's why he can play such long minutes after playing 200 games… and he is about 45 years old!"
While coach Andrew McFadden said the feat was all the more remarkable given the fact that Friend plays in the middle of the park while standing at just 171cm and weighing no more than 85kg.
"It is a huge achievement for Nathan, I was there back when he was at Melbourne back in the day and he was a 95kg nuggety hooker," McFadden said.
"He has really got the best out of himself… he is a terrific person to have at the club.
"He is only 83-84kg now, so to do that in the middle and make 51 tackles against guys who are getting bigger and bigger these days... His courage is unquestioned, he is fearless and that's what makes him what he is and why he has got to 200."
The achievement is the latest in what has been a positive start to the season for Friend, who was awarded his first ever representative cap in February as a late injury call-up in the NRL All Stars side.
After debuting for the Broncos way back in 2002 Friend was part of the Storm side that began the club's era of dominance, and played in the 2006 grand final loss to Brisbane.
A 100-game stint as a foundation member of the Gold Coast Titans followed, before Friend made his way to Mt Smart Stadium in 2012.
"My initial game, Brisbane back in 2002, that first game is probably most people's highlight," he said.
"I played 60 minutes but it felt like two minutes. It just went by so quick compared to these days when you play the game and you seem to have a little bit more time.
"The 2006 grand final is another highlight, even though it was a losing grand final, it was a great feeling playing in front of 92,000 people."
The milestone this weekend is set to be the first of many for Warriors players this season – Ryan Hoffman is on track to bring up his 250th game against his former teammates in Melbourne in Round 5, while the club's try-scoring record holder Manu Vatuvei sits on 196 appearances.