Life as an Eel off to the perfect start for Blake
- Margie McDonald
- Sun 4 Aug 2019, 08:00 AM
Waqa Blake had a simple edict from his coach to have some fun in his first game as an Eel and he's been given time to get back to his best over the next few weeks as the team sets sails for the finals.
Blake, who had been out for seven weeks with a knee problem, played his first game for Parramatta last Saturday against the Warriors after making a mid-season switch from Penrith during his injury lay-off.
Eels coach Brad Arthur told his new recruit to go out and have some fun against the Warriors, which helped ease Blake back into the Telstra Premiership.
"He's a good direct coach, communicates well. The best thing about this was that he didn't expect me to go out and be immediately back to my best," Blake told NRL.com.
"He wanted me to enjoy myself first and gradually get my game going over the next couple of weeks."
Seems as though Blake only half heeded that advice.
He played 80 minutes, made 18 runs for 118 metres, 23 tackles and three tackle busts.
The former Panther said there had been a few butterflies – first game back, new club, big new home ground at Bankwest Stadium.
"If I'd been a lot younger then maybe more nerves. But I still had a few little ones there as I'm coming back from a knee injury," he said.
"But my team-mates and the Eels coaching staff have given me a lot of confidence to get back on the field and try to do what I do best."
That would be playing centre but the shifting sands at the Eels have resulted in the back five changing around a bit. Fullback Clint Gutherson and wingers Blake Ferguson and Maika Sivo have been fairly constant.©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos
But Brad Takairangi, Josh Hoffman, Ethan Parry, Michael and George Jennings have all played in the centres or wings.
Ferguson (infection) and Michael Jennings (knee) have been absent lately - the NSW winger is still out but Jennings is due to return in Sunday's Kogarah clash with the Dragons with Blake the other centre and Takairangi on the wing.
The 24-year-old Fijian international played both left and right centre at the Panthers.
"I don't mind which side. It might be a good thing that I can play both.
"I also don't mind if they want to put me on the wing. Whatever it takes … but centre is my main position and I love playing there."
Since both his new and old clubs are in the top eight, Blake might find himself up against former team-mates in the finals. The one and only Eels-Panthers meeting was in round 11 – coincidentally that was Blake's last game with the team he made his NRL debut with in 2015.
"Maybe somewhere down the track we could meet. And I'll be looking forward to that because a lot of my best mates are still there," Blake said.
"It's good to see them playing well and making a strong run home for the finals. It would fun times to play them. I have great respect for the club."