Fitter Fonua-Blake sets lofty rep goals
Damaging Manly prop Addin Fonua-Blake has set himself some lofty goals at both NRL and representative level for 2017 following his first pre-season as a first grader.
The former Dragon admits his year out of the game in 2015 after being sacked by his old club over an assault charge set him back fitness-wise.
It meant the Junior Kiwi came into 2016 after being thrown a lifeline by Manly having only ever played against under-20s players as well as missing a critical year in his development while sidelined without a club.
Despite this, Fonua-Blake churned through an average of 70 metres and 15 tackles in just 28 minutes per week of game time in his 14 matches, with just over one tackle bust per game and two tries.
"I'm just trying to get a lot fitter and faster and stronger and improve everything that I didn't get through last year and pick up a bit of slack," Fonua-Blake told NRL.com.
"I had a year off then coming in I did a full pre-season (after signing with Manly for 2016) but felt a bit behind all the boys.
"I picked up a bit through the year but the transition, because I'd only played 20s before that which isn't as physical, you have to work harder to get the wrestle and stuff right so it was pretty hard and the fitness was a bit of a step up."
The prop admitted it was a big adjustment going from being one of the biggest players on the field to an NRL rookie, and also wanted to improve his focus – admitting he tended to "clock off" at times last year.
"[Coach] Trent [Barrett] has made it very clear he wants me fit and ready for whatever comes my way and concentrate on the little things like not clocking off in a game," he said.
"Sometimes I was doing that last year. This year that's a big focus for me, the whole time I'm on the field compete."
Fonua-Blake was involved in something of a representative debacle in 2016 when he was named in the City Origin side before it emerged he was ineligible due to his Junior Kiwis appearances. However it didn't turn out too badly for the 21-year-old, who finished the year with a call up to the New Zealand train-on squad – which has him targeting loftier goals in 2017.
"There was a bit of a muck-up last year with it all, I got picked in the City team and wasn't able to play because I played junior Kiwis under 20s but now I'm fully pledged to New Zealand so hopefully I can work hard and push for a spot in the ANZAC Test," he said.
"If not, I'll work harder for the World Cup [at the end of the year].
"I made the train-on squad last year so hopefully my name might be in the mix, I'm not too sure at the moment but the only way to get in the team is to play hard and strong. That's what I want to be doing this year and keeping everyone honest.
"I feel satisfied that people are looking at me but that's not the only thing, to be looked at. I want to be one of the best props in the comp and that's going to take time but I'm willing to put the time and effort in.
"The coaching staff and all the boys here are helping me heaps so hopefully this year I can get the job done."
Fonua-Blake said he has received particular help and inspiration from teammate Marty Taupau – both players are aggressive hard-running props, as well as being Kiwis.
"Marty's such a professional and everything he does is at 100 per cent and he reaps the rewards. He makes all the teams and it's because he trains so hard and plays so hard. He is a bit of an inspiration to me. He's where I want to be," Fonua-Blake said.
Taupau was humbled by Fonua-Blake's praise but backed his young teammate to be a force in 2017.
"He is a very explosive and very dominant player," Taupau said.
"I see him as a huge asset for the team as well. He brings a lot of energy and a lot of strength and power which is exactly what we need and we've got some great balance in our team as well with Jake Trbojevic and Nate [Myles] so it balances out.
"I'm pretty flattered that he sort of looks up to me."