Whether he’s starting or being injected into the fray from the bench, veteran Vodafone Warriors forward Adam Blair says it matters not to him.
He’ll be making his 327th career appearance whenever he’s called on to enter the battle against the Newcastle Knights at Scully Park in Tamworth on Saturday.
More significantly it will be his sixth consecutive outing being used from the interchange by interim head coach Todd Payten.
“It honestly doesn't matter whether I'm starting or on the bench, I just want to be part of the team,” says Blair.
“I'm enjoying my football and doing my role, just trying to help the team out wherever I can at training and after training.”
Payten was critical of his most senior player when he moved him to the bench after the Vodafone Warriors lost 10-46 to Cronulla Sutherland in July – but the switch has ended up providing the impetus for a sea change in the team’s performances and has unquestionably helped to transform the influence the bench is having on contests.
With Blair’s seniority complemented by seasoned Parramatta loan prop Daniel Alavro, canny hooker Wayde Egan and either Lachlan Burr, Isaiah Papali’i or Jack Murchie as the fourth interchange player, the bench has been a significant strength for the last five weeks.
That was perfectly illustrated in last Sunday’s solid 20-14 win over Canterbury Bankstown when the bench made a telling contribution:
- In his 46 minutes on the field, dummy half Egan made 45 metres from four runs and made 27 tackles (no misses)
- In 40 minutes, Blair gained 108 metres from 12 carries, had a line break, two off loads and made 20 tackles (no misses)
- In 28 minutes, Alvaro returned 89 metres from eight carries and made 26 tackles (two misses)
- In his 48 minutes, Murchie provided 73 metres from seven runs and made 32 tackles as well as scoring two tries and producing a wonderful flick pass for Adam Pompey’s try.
In all the four players played a total of 162 minutes – 40.5 minutes a man – and materially the affected the course of the contest when they were on, Murchie demonstrably so with his two tries and his assist for Pompey’s quality try.
Together they gained a total of 315 metres – and averaged of almost 80 metres a player – from 31 carries (which works out to more than 10 metres a carry). They combined for a total of 105 tackles with just two misses.
Blair’s job change job has coincided with a series of performances which started with the Vodafone Warriors recovering from their trouncing by the Sharks to fully extend defending premiers the Sydney Roosters in a 10-18 loss (and they had chances to win).
Since then there have been three wins over the Wests Tigers (26-20), Manly Warringah (26-22) and the Bulldogs plus what stands out as a highly meritorious 12-18 loss to competition leader Penrith, its tightest result in an unbroken club record run of 10 wins. Indeed, the week after being pushed to the edge by the Vodafone Warriors, the Panthers savaged top eight side Cronulla Sutherland 38-12.
In those five games, the Vodafone Warriors have scored 94 points but, most significantly, they’ve really shored up their defence by yielding only 92 points – an average of 18.4 a game – and holding powerhouses the Roosters and Penrith to just 18 points (the Panthers and Roosters are both averaging 26 points a game this season).
Blair’s revelling in the team’s efforts.
“There are some guys here who haven't had an opportunity to play yet,” he says.
“I've been trying to help them, support them, give them the opportunity to work hard on things they need to so if the chance comes to play - and I'm guessing it will with our numbers shortening up - they're ready to play.
For us coming off the bench it's about trying to lift up another gear or change the momentum of the gameAdam Blair Vodafone Warriors middle forward
“Our starts have been pretty tough lately and our boys have played really well, especially against the Panthers when I felt like they defended for 12-13 minutes without the ball and our starting middles did a really good job in trying to stay in the fight.
“For us coming off the bench it's about trying to lift up another gear or change the momentum of the game.”
Across the five matches since the switch he has averaged 35 minutes a game, 71 metres from 7.4 runs and 26 tackles (a total of 128 with only three misses).