ARTICLE BY ALICIA NEWTON/NRL.COM
When Waqa Blake leaps above Parramatta opponents in Sunday afternoon’s Battle of the West clash against Parramatta, another place out west will have helped him get up there.
Perth, in Western Australia, to be exact.
Blake spent five years on Australia’s west coast during his teenage years and along the way was introduced to AFL-mad friends.
When the future Fiji international arrived in Perth from Sydney with his mum and step father, all he’d ever known was rugby union and rugby league.
“I did play a bit there, had a lot of mates that played it so gave it a go at school and club footy but the main thing was rugby union and rugby league,” Blake said on Wednesday.
“I was in the middle like a ruckman. I was tall and could jump, that’s all they used me for. That’s where I got [the attributes] from.
“I had a lot of fun playing it but wasn’t sure if I was fit enough. They cover a lot of kilometres, it’s freakish and different to rugby league and union.”
Blake moved to the Panthers six years ago after being spotted by recruitment guru Jim Jones playing for WA’s SG Ball Pirates side.
He remains eligible for NSW Origin selection given he played junior rugby league in Sydney prior to the WA move.
With Perth set to host its first Holden State of Origin match on June 23, Blake keeps the dream of playing in the interstate battle on his to-do list.
The 24-year-old was part of Brad Fittler’s emerging Blues side last December.
“Oh yeah, 100 per cent,” Blake said.
“We’ve had a few chats. [Fittler] told me what I needed to do in club footy.
“When I first moved over from Fiji [State of Origin] was the biggest thing I saw when I first come over. Even when I grew up in Perth it was so AFL-dominated but when it comes to State of Origin it’s massive over there.
Blake’s second half of the 2018 season was arguably his strongest of his career after returning from a two and a half month injury layoff with a high-grade syndesmosis injury.
He returned to finish the final 11 games of the season, scoring nine tries.
“The good thing about it I had a rest in between and came back firing on the left side,” Blake said.
“Now that I’ve got a full pre-season you can only tell I’m giving it my all.”