Ever since Adam Blair arrived at the Warriors in 2018, the veteran forward has been... critiqued.
He's been hailed as "the dumbest Warriors signing" ever. He's had experts and pundits constantly say he failed to make an impact – and not for the first time in his career.
Starring for the Melbourne Storm between 2006 and 2011, he moved on to Wests Tigers where he was savage by local media over a three-year stint. Australian publication The Daily Telegraph once suggested he was the worst NRL signing ever.
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Now, he shapes up as one of the most important players in the Warriors' 2020 campaign.
It's been a bizarre old year for the Warriors. The side had to remain in Australia in a bid to keep the competition alive within the opening rounds only for it to be halted after round two. They then returned home, only to have to turned around and relocate to Australia on a full-time basis if they were going to be able to compete in the remainder of the season.
It's a situation the likes of which has never been seen in the NRL, and probably never will be again. But it's a situation where the veterans in the team such as Blair need to stand up and help the camp in terms of keeping them accountable and trying to keep morale high.
The younger guys in the team will look to the veterans for guidance and, to this point, the group has pulled together.
It's the same on the pitch, and Blair has been setting the tone.
In his first two seasons for the Warriors, Blair averaged just 59 and 69 running metres per game (rmpg) - 59rmpg being the second-lowest of his now 15-year career and 69rmpg being fifth-lowest. In 2020, he's averaging 113rmpg. The 34 year old has been setting the pace in the middle, running good hard lines at the defence and making the most of the extra space afforded by the new ruck infringement rules.
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Blair has become the Warriors' cannonball. He's been throwing himself into the defensive line early and often, forcing tackles to be made – often by more than one opposition player for fear of his ability to offload the ball.
This is a basic act, and one that you would expect from any forward. But Blair is giving the Warriors an additional threat in the pack that they haven't had in the past couple of seasons; and whether he's been lining up at prop or lock, Blair has had the same vigour about his game.
With the likes of Tohu Harris and Eliesa Katoa seemingly adding a guaranteed 100m per game, if all three of a team' back rowers are doing that, it can only be a good thing - particularly with the game shifting towards a more open, free-running product.
Last weekend against the North Queensland Cowboys where Blair, Katoa and Harris, as well as propping duo Lachlan Burr and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, all clocked up more than 100m with ball in hand. That showed in the final 20 minutes as the Cowboys – who were admittedly undermanned with two players forced out of the game by half time – struggled to match the Warriors pace and aggression.
While Blair has drastically lifted his influence on the Warriors attack his defence hasn't taken a hit, maintaining an average of 30 tackles per game through the five games this season.
If Blair is able to maintain the pace he's playing at the moment, he's sure to help the Warriors cause with dominant ball-running forwards now seeming more important than ever.