Broncos embrace their invisible man
He was branded as 'Teddy Blair' by his hometown newspaper but it's the numbers that you don't see that make Adam Blair such a treasured member of the table-topping Brisbane Broncos.
Derided for registering just a solitary hit-up against the Sharks in Round 2, Blair has been credited by teammates for helping to instil a defensive resolve that withstood 11 repeat sets by the Melbourne Storm last Sunday.
With senior players Justin Hodges and Corey Parker both absent, Blair ran for 93 metres and made 41 tackles against the Storm, but they are not the statistics on which the two-time grand final winner prides himself on.
Ahead of the Broncos' clash with the Knights at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, courtesy of Prozone NRL.com can reveal the statistics that prove Blair is contributing in ways often overlooked by those in the stands or watching at home on TV.
Blair leads the Broncos in hit-ups from a restart (15) where he averages 10.8 metres, runs an average of 5.3 decoys per game and also 3.5 support runs, the 'one per centers' so valued by coaches.
He ranks third among front-rowers with a propensity to pass by passing 35.7 per cent of the time and his 23 kick pressures rank seventh in the NRL in season 2015.
They don't win you many Dally M points but they are invaluable in earning the respect of your teammates.
"He does a lot of work that people probably don't notice, just with his kick pressure, his marker work, his speed off the line and getting our guys off the line," said Hodges, who returns against the Knights on Friday.
"A lot of that stuff goes unnoticed because they're not the fancy plays but to us he's a guy that works very hard on and off the field.
"Just his leadership and the way he works with the young guys in the locker room to help them, he's been great for us and I can't speak highly enough of what he's done for us this year."
Although he accepted the newspaper treatment in good grace – "I got used to that down in Sydney" – Blair said he is happy to contribute to a winning culture without ever receiving the plaudits outside of the football club.
Preparing for his 204th NRL game, the 29-year-old said he was indoctrinated in six years at the Storm to base his game on making the plays that other players often refuse to make.
"Throughout my career from down in Melbourne I make sure I do those one per centers that nobody really notices but your teammates," Blair said. "For me it is about going out there and doing those little things every week.
"Obviously I don’t make the most hit-ups in a team or the big special plays but I pride myself in turning up on the last tackle and putting some kick pressure or some inside pressure on when they’re trying to take the ball off the line.
"I’ve prided myself on those little things throughout my career and I just keep doing that week in and week out."
Four points clear alongside the Cowboys on the top of the table, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has this week continued the rotation policy of his Origin stars to rest back-rower Sam Thaiday.
Being able to call on the experience of Kiwi international Blair during the Origin period helps to reduce the impact of losing their Queensland stars but Blair believes his role doesn't change from week to week.
"I see my role as just going out there and doing my job, it doesn’t change too much," he said.
"It’s good we can afford to rest those boys because we are in a good position (four points clear on the ladder). We’ve got boys stepping up on the bench playing some good footy who’ve stepped in for those guys and we’re really working good together.
"My role is just to get out there and do a good job."