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Top of the props: Warriors hail AFB after monster effort

Ask Warriors star Shaun Johnson for the reasons behind his outstanding 2023 season and the name Addin Fonua-Blake will feature prominently on the list.

After watching the Tongan powerhouse punish the Wests Tigers in a 30-22 win for the Warriors on Saturday night, with an effort that included 27 carries for 270 metres and a try, Johnson joined teammates and coach Andrew Webster in claiming there is no better prop in the game right now.  

“To me, he is the best front-rower in the comp,” Johnson said.  

“People often have been talking about how well I’m going, but it’s purely off the back of what ‘Dinny’ and the rest of the forward pack are doing, and he’s leading the way for that.”

While statistics form just part of judging the effectiveness of a front-rower, in terms of the key ball-carrying metrics for props through 24 rounds, Fonua-Blake and Broncos enforcer Payne Haas are far and away the standout big men.

Fonua-Blake is the second-ranked prop behind Haas when it comes to both average post-contact metres (65.2 average) and total metres gained (174.6 average).

Addin Fonua-Blake try 76th minute

Fellow middle forward Jazz Tevaga said the range of skills Fonua-Blake brings to every carry makes him a nightmare match-up for opposing defenders, with his ability to ball play at the line now a key part of the Warriors’ attack.

“Everyone is talking about Payne Haas, but Addin and what he gives us each week, I just don’t see anyone else doing that,” Tevaga told

“He is an animal. The best prop in the game.

How big he is, how athletic he is, how skillful he is – Addin has one of the best back-door passes in the game.

Jazz Tevaga

“When you are defending him you have to sit on your heels, because he can run through you, step you or pass the ball. He has got so many strings to his bow.”

In beating the Wests Tigers in Hamilton, the Warriors made it five wins on the trot and took another step towards securing a return to the NRL finals for the first time since 2018.

Sitting third with three regular season games to go, the Kiwi club are also on track to finish in the top four for the first time in 16 years.

While there were some concerning defensive lapses as they struggled against a team from outside the top eight for the second week in a row – following a 28-18 win over a Titans side who played 64 minutes with 12 men – Webster believes it won’t take much for his side to get back to their best.

“We could have a million training sessions, but what we need to fix we could fix in a second,” Webster said.

Luke Brooks try 18th minute

“It’s just our mindset, just flicking the switch and concentrating for longer.

“I feel like before the [Round 22] bye we had lots of momentum and knew what we were doing. I think we still know what we are doing, but we are just not concentrating for longer periods.

“I know they can fix it and we will, it doesn’t worry me at all.”

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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