Teammates' pain is Waqa's gain
Injuries to teammates handed him his NRL debut last season and now they've given Panthers centre Waqa Blake an opportunity to solidify a place in first grade.
Season-ending ACL injuries to Dean Whare and Peta Hiku have seen Blake lock up a centre spot at Penrith for the foreseeable future, with the young City Origin representative thankful for the mentoring the more experienced duo have given him despite their own misfortune.
"I definitely look up both to Deano and Peta," Blake told NRL.com.
"They're New Zealand internationals and with me being relatively new to the centres their input is valuable. There's no doubt being around them in the pre-season helped me out a lot."
Blake said the Panthers' pre-season was the hardest he'd ever undergone but that earning the trust of coach Anthony Griffin was an important factor in him being handed a license to thrill on the club's right edge.
"Hook (Griffin) has told me he knows what I'm capable of and I just have to get out there and play my game. Everything is going well but there's always going to be a little bit of pressure there too," Blake said.
"I've learnt this year compared to last year that whenever something bad happens I don't let it get me down. That in itself has helped me heaps and it all comes down to the pre-season I had."
At just 21 years of age, Blake is still nowhere near the youngest Penrith player named to play the Rabbitohs on Friday night.
With 27 NRL games under his belt, Blake believes he now has to take his game to new heights and help usher in the new breed of Panthers coming through the ranks.
"Obviously being a rookie year last season, I learnt a lot from it but now with a lot younger group it means I have to step up even further with the likes of Nathan Cleary playing first grade now," Blake said.
"The reason I'm playing well though too is the others around me. I'm just feeding off them and we're all working hard together with all the new facilities here now so things have been working well for us."