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Warriors keep AFB injury secret as Brown accuses Payten of gamesmanship

Warriors coach Nathan Brown has refused to reveal details of the injury Addin Fonua-Blake is carrying, while accusing North Queensland counterpart Todd Payten of gamesmanship over claims that 50-50 calls often favoured the top teams.

Fonua-Blake is firming to take his place in the front-row for Friday night’s match against the Cowboys after initially being named on the extended bench due to an injury that Brown now wants to keep secret.

“I could but I won’t be with that one,” Brown said when asked to specify what injury Fonua-Blake had suffered.

“It is something that is best kept to ourselves, just for obvious reasons if he does play.”

Addin Fonua-Blake suffered a mystery injury against the Broncos
Addin Fonua-Blake suffered a mystery injury against the Broncos ©Erick Lucero/NRL Photos

The Tongan prop was included in the 19-man squad announced by the Warriors 24 hours before kick-off at Moreton Daily Stadium as Brown raised concerns about the motive for Payten’s comments after last weekend’s 28-4 loss to Sydney Roosters.

The Cowboys had three players sin-binned and lost the penalty count 10-8, prompting Payten to echo the comments of Titans coach Justin Holbrook after his side’s round one loss to Parramatta, in which he claimed the top clubs get more favourable refereeing calls.

Payten said: “The Titans head coach a couple of weeks ago made a comment, and I agree with him. Teams that have been up the pointy end of the competition for a while now, or have high-profile players, get the benefit of the doubt too often, and that’s frustrating. That’s my opinion over watching footy for a long time”.

However, Brown suggested Payten may have been thinking ahead to Friday night’s match against the Warriors and said coaches should focus on improving their team rather than refereeing decisions.

“The biggest thing for me is that we had the Gold Coast in round two and Justin obviously felt he had missed out on a few 50-50 calls against Parramatta,” Brown said.

“He expressed the same thing; saying that they were a smaller club but in one press conference they became a big club because we got penalised 7-2 in yardage penalties the next week so that’s my biggest concern – that people are using it as a platform to gain an advantage the next week.

“Like Toddy and Justin, we are all at clubs that are trying to become consistently up at the better end of the table so for me we want to try and focus on what we can do better and what we can control better.

“We have lost two games this year and against the Gold Coast we got penalised 7-2 in yardage penalties, which makes it extremely difficult, but we also dropped the ball twice with the line wide open, so I would probably rather put my energy into what we can do better at our club and hopefully win a few more games.”

With lock Jazz Tevaga suspended for two matches for a cannonball tackle, the inclusion of Fonua-Blake would be a significant boost for the Warriors.

If Fonua-Blake plays, he is expected to resume the captaincy from hooker Wayde Egan, who many considered to be a surprise choice ahead of star halfback Shaun Johnston.

Hooker Wayde Egan has been named captain against the Cowboys
Hooker Wayde Egan has been named captain against the Cowboys ©Erick Lucero/NRL Photos

“We have got Tohu [Harris] as our captain and then Addin is probably our vice-captain, if you go back to old school ways,” Brown said.  

“Shaun was probably, for a lot of people, the obvious choice but we are just happy with Shaun’s contribution at the moment, on and off the field, and we just want him not to have any extra burden on him because he is probably going to do it anyway.

“We just thought Wayde was a nice simple choice, he has been a part of the [leadership] group now for a couple of years, he is well respected, he is certainly living how we want to be seen, and we just thought it was a nice easy decision.”

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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