Just into his second week as a Vodafone Warrior, man mountain front rower Addin Fonua-Blake isn’t having any issues fitting into his new club environment.
No doubt it helps that he has packed a lot of team experiences into his career even though he’s still only 25 and hasn’t yet played 100 NRL games.
While his playing days have been centred on the greater Sydney area in club land terms until now, the fact he has stopped off at four clubs (South Sydney, Parramatta, St George Illawarra and Manly) as well as representing both New Zealand – at junior and senior level – and Tonga means he’s familiar with a big group of players.
So it is that he can cast his eye over his new team-mates and find links galore, ensuring he’s comfortable in his new surroundings. Although, with the club split into two training squads until the New Year, it will be a few weeks yet before Fonua-Blake is able to rekindle all acquaintances.
His time with St George Illawarra at under-20 level nurtured an enduring relationship with fellow new signing Euan Aitken, who has been secured to add both experience and quality to the Vodafone Warriors’ centres.
Aitken was thrilled about being reunited with the man he calls “the wrecking ball” when he joined the Vodafone Warriors' Kiama-based players this week; the feeling is mutual for Fonua-Blake.
“Ewey’s a good mate of mine and a very good player,” he said.
“I played a lot of NYC footy with him so it’s exciting to link up with him again.”
And through being in the Junior Kiwis in 2014, the Kiwis at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and then Mate Ma’a Tonga, a number of other links were established.
Play maker Kodi Nikorima was in the Junior Kiwis with him in the team that beat the Junior Kangaroos in 2014 and they were teammates again at the World Cup three years later along with Vodafone Warriors captain captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and centre Peta Hiku.
Through Tonga, he has been alongside winger David Fusitu’a and another new signing Ben Murdoch-Masila. When he was in the junior ranks with the Dragons, current Kiwi and Vodafone Warriors front rower Leeson Ah Mau was in the early stages of his time with the club.
“I’m looking forward to playing with Rog, Fus, Ken and some of the other boys,” said Fonua-Blake.
I’ve learnt that you can’t just be big and strong in the NRLAddin Fonua-Blake New Vodafone Warriors signing
“Big Murdo’s coming over from England as well so I’ve known a few of the players and I’ve played with them a few times but it will be good to play with them week-in-week-out.”
Fonua-Blake is set to reach his 100-game NRL milestone three games into his debut season with the Vodafone Warriors after amassing 97 appearances during his five years with Manly. He said the search for improvement in his game never stops.
“I’ve learnt that you can’t just be big and strong in the NRL,” he said.
“You also need to be smart in certain parts of the game and learn how to save a little bit of energy at times. I’m still learning and there’s plenty of room for improvement. Hopefully I can get better again next year.”
He’s excited about what lies ahead for the Vodafone Warriors as he assesses a squad which shows seven new signings – Aitken, Murdoch-Masila, Kane Evans, Marcelo Montoya, Sean O’Sullivan and Bayley Sironen as well as Fonua-Brown himself. Not to mention the established first-choice players and young ones showing so much promise.
“I’m just aiming to put my best foot forward for the club,” he said.
If we get it right with the preseason and the early stages of the comp we can go farAdam Fonua-Blake New Vodafone Warriors signing
“I reckon we should go pretty good in the comp with the roster we have for next season.
“We’ve made some really good signings and I reckon if we get it right with the preseason and the early stages of the comp we can go far. Fingers crossed that everyone can stay fit and healthy and we give everyone a run for their money."
For now the hard work is just starting for Fonua-Brown after having his break.
Fellow signings O’Sullivan, Montoya, Aitken and Sironen are with him while Evans joins the camp next week and Murdoch-Masila comes into the mix in the New Year.
Also in the group on the other side of the Tasman are Josh Curran, Wayde Egan, Jackson Frei, Jack Murchie, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Hiku, Karl Lawton and Tohu Harris plus train and trial players Pride Petterson-Robati, Nathan Watts and Lachlan Timm out of the Queensland Cup.