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How Waqa Blake overcame nightmare night with Nathan Cleary to help Parra into Prelim




Footy can take you from hero to zero and back again in a short space of time – and nobody knows that more than Parramatta winger Waqa Blake.

After a shocker last week in the Eels’ defeat to Penrith, where he repeatedly failed to deal with the aerial bombardment from the Panthers, Blake bounced back with a try and several strong defensive moments to help his side overcome Canberra 40-4 and earn a spot in the Preliminary Final against North Queensland Cowboys.

“In the past, it might have hit me a lot, but at the same time, I was going up against a world class player in Nathan Cleary,” he said.

“I didn’t do my job, but there’s no point worrying about it. All I had to do is flush it and move on to this week, and that’s what I did.

“These games, you can’t look to them and think ‘worry about it next week’. I have to flush it. I couldn’t go back to it like it was a normal round game. It’s a finals game so it got a flush.”

Blake scored Parra’s third try and ran for 128m, but wasn’t tested under the high ball as the Raiders struggled to end their sets.

“I wasn’t bothered about what they were doing, I was worried about my own assignment and what the boys needed me to do,” he said.

“The boys always have my back and I’ve got theirs. That’s the same week in, week out. They know what they expect of me and I did that this week.”

Eels coach Brad Arthur, speaking in the post-match press conference, had no doubt that he would continue to pick Blake despite a torrid night in Penrith.

“We were always putting him in the team because he’s done such a good job to get us to this point,” said Arthur. “You don’t get rid of blokes on the back of one performance. There’s got to be a bit of loyalty and there certainly is in our team.

“Not at any point did our players not want him in the team. He’s done a great job defensively for us and a great job returning the ball. He had a bad night under some really good kicking.”

Blake was heartened to learn of the faith shown in him by his coach.

“(Brad) has always backed me from day one,” he said. “Obviously it wasn’t my best game last week, but I knew what I needed to do this week and then the next challenge is Cowboys. They’re a great team and I can’t wait.

“I haven’t had the opportunity (to play in a Preliminary Final) so it’s going to be exciting. All the boys are pumped and our prep starts now.”





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