Auto Poster Former captain Adam Blair in Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's corner as he prepares to lead Kiwis

Stuff News Articles

Auto Poster
Apr 23, 2013

Adam Blair has been named on the bench for Saturday's test against Australia.

Adam Blair has backed Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's appointment as Kiwis captain and vowed to give the fullback all the support he needs.

Watene-Zelezniak has effectively replaced Blair as skipper, after coach Michael Maguire opted not to name a captain for the mid-year test against England, and will lead the Kiwis for the first time on Saturday against the Kangaroos.

Blair was initially meant to serve as the team's unofficial captain for the match in Denver before he was ruled out through suspension, with Issac Luke filling the role.


James Tedesco says his Sydney teammate Joseph Manu is usually a "quiet kid".

A veteran of 45 tests, the Warriors forward is the most experienced player in the Kiwis squad but Maguire opted for youth in appointing Watene-Zelezniak, who at 23 is one of the youngest captains in Kiwis history.

* Manu v Latrell: Kiwi up for battle
* Hunt fears Watene-Zelezniak
* Smith out of star's shadow

The move caught many surprise but Blair was behind the coach as he attempts to rebuild the Kiwis after last year's World Cup disappointment.

"'Madge' (Maguire) has spoken all week about building for the future and he's going to be around for a long time. We're trying to grow people within the group and Dallin's an integral part of the team," said Blair, who is set to start from the bench this weekend.

"It's a great opportunity for Dallin to stand up and voice his opinion. He's a wise person and does everything right on and off the field. I think it's great for New Zealand rugby league for Dallin to grow into this role."

Blair was on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism for his reaction to New Zealand's shock World Cup quarterfinal defeat against Fiji last November.

In a televised interview immediately after the match, Blair said the result was "not a negative" before he and then-coach David Kidwell spoke of their pride in what the team had achieved during the post-match press conference.

Blair was emotional at the time and the independent review into that campaign said he "candidly and responsibly" expressed regret for the way he came across, adding that NZRL leadership had failed in not giving him adequate support.

The World Cup was a tough lesson but Blair responded well, playing a senior role in his first season at the Warriors to help break the club's seven-year finals drought.

And there is no doubt Blair's leadership and experience will be crucial against Australia this weekend and the upcoming tour of England.

"The talk has been about everyone being leaders and I've been talking to Madge about it throughout this year and how it's all going to look," he said. "I think it's great that we've got guys like Dallin that get an opportunity to lead our country.

"For me it's about being a senior player, giving some knowledge and supporting Dallin on and off the field."

Blair worked with Maguire when they were both at the Melbourne Storm in the late 2000s and he is excited with the direction the team is headed.

For all the talk of the squad's inexperience, Blair is one of several seasoned forwards alongside Jesse Bromwich, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Martin Taupau and Kevin Proctor.

That has given Maguire the luxury of bringing Blair and Taupau off the bench against the Kangaroos and the former skipper is determined to add plenty of energy when he eventually takes the field.

"Every game is won in the forwards and we've got a quality forward pack and a quality team that can do some damage," Blair said.

"With any game it's all about holding the ball and the longer we can do that and get good field possession the better we're going to be at the end of the game.

"Massive test for us as a group, a new beginning, a new start but I'm looking forward to it."

Continue reading...