Secret to NSW bolter’s outstanding two-try performance

Waqa Blake (centre) of the Panthers put up a strong Round 1 performance.
Waqa Blake (centre) of the Panthers put up a strong Round 1 performance.

IT was the heroic round-one performance that almost never was.

Penrith centre Waqa Blake had accepted being ruled out of their season-opening clash against Parramatta after undergoing a shoulder reconstruction over the summer.

It wasn't until he was a last-minute inclusion in their final trial against Canterbury that he believed he was a chance of taking on the Eels, where he produced a matchwinning effort.

Waqa Blake celebrates a try against the Eels.
Waqa Blake celebrates a try against the Eels.

Blake credited the Panthers' medical staff after he almost single-handedly dragged his side back from a 14-0 deficit with two tries, including a 35-metre solo effort.

"I wasn't in a rush to try and bring myself back and make myself available. It would've been good, but I wasn't sure," Blake said of his recovery.

"But the rehab staff got stuck into me and they really worked on me. I thank them. I wasn't sure if I could last the whole 80 minutes either, but I got out of the woods there."

Arguably the fastest player in the Panthers squad, Blake has become a key member of the backline and a go-to weapon with the ball.

Now he has his eyes on joining a number of his teammates in hoping to catch the attention of NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler.

"Of course it's a dream of mine. It's everyone's dream to play Origin," Blake said.

Penrith's Waqa Blake makes a break to score a try against Parramatta. Picture: Brett Costello
Penrith's Waqa Blake makes a break to score a try against Parramatta. Picture: Brett Costello

"There's a lot of quality centres Freddie has to choose from, but I do want to step up and show my game more. It's only been one game though, so I've got to show it every week." Blake was one of a number of Panthers to impress in their comeback victory, with fellow Fijian powerhouse Viliame Kikau also playing a major role in the win.

Five-eighth James Maloney said the team's natural ability is their main strength heading into the campaign, and that the onus was on him and halves partner Nathan Cleary to harness it.


"Waqa's first try, that's what some of these kids can do. That's just some of the individual brilliance of this side," Maloney said.

"The idea of playing eyes-up footy when we have teams on the ropes, when we basically back the footy in this side, we can do that really well.

"There's domination at times, but there's a lot to work on. Me and Nathan will do that."

Topics:  brad fittler nrl 2018 nsw state of origin penrith panthers rugby league waqa blake

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