Blair ends finals exile
Denied his last finals appearance by the infamous 'Battle of Brookvale', Broncos forward Adam Blair is just as excited as the rookie members of the squad at his return to September football.
Having played in grand finals in three of his first four NRL seasons at the Storm, the Kiwi international could have been excused for thinking that every year of football went through until the first weekend in October but it's been a very lean trot of late.
With the Storm's salary cap scandal ruling them out of finals contention in 2010 and Blair's five-week suspension for his sideline stoush with Glenn Stewart in Round 25, 2011 it will be six years since his last finals appearance when he turns out for Brisbane against the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
There is little finals experience in the Broncos team with rookies such as Kodi Nikorima and Joe Ofahengaue to play their first but for Blair, the chance to return to the game's biggest stage for the first time since the 2009 Grand Final is a vastly different feeling to having to watch on TV at home.
"You don't want to be sitting on the sidelines watching other teams play," said the 29-year-old who missed the finals in all three years he spent at the Wests Tigers.
"I'm really excited to be a part of this club and where we're heading. It brings the best out of you as a person and a player.
"You train really hard and go through some tough times with your teammates. To be finished at Round 26, it's tough to take. It's more disappointment."
The Broncos have been unable to get past Week One of the finals since 2011 with their exits in 2012 and 2014 both coming at the hands of their opponents on Saturday night, North Queensland.
They are the games where 11 months of hard work go on the line but Blair believes the Broncos' tough run in will hold them in good stead for the challenge ahead of them over the next four weeks.
Brisbane's last five games of the regular season were all against teams who have qualified for the finals and even though there were losses to the Bulldogs, Roosters and Storm, Blair is confident the young players have been shown what it takes to handle semi-final intensity.
"It's all about staying cool and controlling the game," Blair said of the difference in finals football.
"For us, the last few weeks have been pretty intense. It's going to be another gear above that. The contacts are bigger, the speed is quicker and you get less time with the ball.
"The games are massive. You want to play your best footy and we train all year for these games.
"You have to be playing your best footy this weekend."
The last piece of the premiership puzzle put into place at the last minute by coach Wayne Bennett, Blair's form for Brisbane this year has him in the conversation as one of the buys of the season.
When he was suspended for Rounds 21-22 the Broncos dropped both games to Manly and Canterbury and the 29-Test veteran said Bennett has helped him to rediscover his best football.
"My job's simple and for any player you want to know what your job is in the team and what job you need to do," Blair said.
"When you're told this is what you've got to do it's easier to get your head around it mentally and to prepare for it.
"For myself Wayne has been really honest with us in saying, 'This is what you've got to do' and it helps as a player knowing what your job is in the team.
"I'm happy with how I'm going but never satisfied. There's always room to improve and I always want to be better as a player and person. But I've been given a simple job here and I go out and try to nail it every time."