NRL club’s awful $2.4m blunder laid bare

COMMENT

The Warriors just never learn.

Various administrations have made some of the dumbest signings in NRL history, but turning Adam Blair into a very wealthy veteran may stand the test of time as the craziest.

At his peak, there wasn't a better forward in the game to watch than Blair, who bounced around for the Storm like a giant, demented pinball. It was great to watch, and effective.

But that was a long time ago. Since then, the 33-year-old has been a marginal prospect, seemingly addicted to the sort of cheap shots which have infuriated former players like Gorden Tallis and Andrew Johns, mingled with the odd moment of glory.

It was a ridiculous risky decision at the time, when the Warriors reportedly paid him around $2.4m over three years from 2018.

They did, to be fair, resist his overtures for a four year deal which meant he would have been providing a handful of hitups each week until the ripe old age of 35.

Nationality shouldn't come into it when there is that much money involved, but Blair's Kiwi status undoubtedly had a lot to do with his appeal for the Auckland club.

And it has left the wobbly Warriors, who face the magnificent Storm in Melbourne on Thursday, with an expensive headache.

For my money, Blair is only worth playing in the middle of the field, where he can pick his moments and make something out of nothing with his maverick ways. He is uniquely creative, which is about all he has to offer these days.

The Warriors will never learn.
The Warriors will never learn.

But it was obvious last year, in his first Warriors season, that Blair's declining work rate would be an increasing problem, even though he retained a knack for creating havoc now and then.

Come the 2019 season, coach Steve Kearney parked him out wide as a second rower, maybe because the harder working Lachlan Burr was needed in the middle to help compensate for the club's defensively lame props.

But Blair looked like a fish out of water from the opening clash against the Bulldogs. His struggling game is now confused by the shift and a second rower's restraints. He's chewing up a lot more salary cap space than metres, and creating very little.

In evaluating what an old warhorse can bring to a club, Cowboys forward Josh McGuire provided an embarrassing comparison to Blair at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night.

Statistics aren't the whole story. But they do tell you something. According to the nrl.com figures, Blair made just six runs for a total of 41 metres against the Cowboys, and a paltry 11 post-contact metres before his home fans.

McGuire made 23 runs for 220 metres, with a stunning 85 post contact metres. He is four years younger than Blair, which is a big part of the point.

I’m sure Blair — the Kiwis captain — has a strong influence around the club. But on the field, he is the last type of player the Warriors need.
I’m sure Blair — the Kiwis captain — has a strong influence around the club. But on the field, he is the last type of player the Warriors need.

I'm sure Blair - the Kiwis captain - has a strong influence around the club. But on the field, he is the last type of player the Warriors need.

He can't resist things like late hits on playmakers, kicking the ball away in the ruck, drifting offside etc etc, along with risky plays which are getting his team into trouble.

The Warriors need experienced players who know how to stay in the fight, who revel in the trench warfare.

The Warriors overpaid foreign players have often been targeted for the most criticism, from the moment English prop Andy Platt turned up in 1995 with a travel clause involving his pooches.

But in terms of wages versus production, Blair is probably in a tie with flyweight England back Sam Tomkins as the club's worst signing, although there are other contenders.

And if Blair was an English or Aussie player, there would be a lot more criticism over his deal.

The lesson is this: don't sign marginal 30-plus players on massive long term deals, no matter who they once were.

This article originally appeared in the NZ Herald and was republished with permission