He was one of the most significant signings in the club’s history and Vodafone Warriors front rower Addin Fonua-Blake lived right up the billing being singled out by his teammates as the players’ player of the year at today's annual awards function.
Joining the club after 97 appearances with Manly, the double international was always going to face close scrutiny as he started a new chapter in his NRL career.
It was a challenging move because, like the other new acquisitions, Fonua-Blake was denied the traditional introduction to a new club.
With Covid-19 playing its menacing hand at will, there was no prospect of the Vodafone Warriors conducting a regular preseason with the entire squad coming together at Mount Smart Stadium.
Instead, there were two training pods, one in Auckland and one in Kiama in New South Wales. Only when all the players converged on Tamworth in January did they have a chance to not only train together but also to connect and bond.
The less-than-ideal start didn’t seem to ruffle AFB. He settled in seamlessly and set about proving his value over and over.
All the signs suggested he would have a huge season and he started that way making 202 metres, 144 metres and 175 metres in his first three appearances against Gold Coast, Newcastle and Canberra. There was every reason to be excited.
But then disaster. After just 13 minutes of his fourth outing against the Roosters he was off the field with a knee injury which initially threatened to derail his year.
Fortunately he was able to rehab the injury but it was a painstaking process before he finally made his way back into action against Melbourne in round 14.
And from there he soon found his groove in an impressive run over the rest of the season. Four times he topped 200 metres in his last 11 outings of the year, a best of 257 metres against Penrith on a day when the Vodafone Warriors had to play the entire second half without any interchanges.
Tohu Harris and captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (in his last outing for the club) were among three of the early casualties in the opening minutes of that contest, leaving Fonua-Blake to take on added responsibility as captain not just for that match but for the rest of the campaign.
He galvanised the players on a charge which gave them a late sniff of making the finals. It didn’t work out but AFB had left his mark.