Addin Fonua-Blake will not be lost to the Warriors in 2024 after all.
In a bombshell on Thursday, it was revealed that the marquee prop had requested a release from his contract on compassionate grounds.
The 27-year-old, who was one of the biggest elements in their stunning 2023 transformation, is signed at the club until the end of the 2026 season, but he made the request to return to Sydney to live closer to his parents and also his wife’s family.
The move seemed to come as a surprise to the club, given the hastily composed and brief press release on Thursday evening to say they were “considering the request”. It also sent massive reverberations through the fanbase, given Fonua-Blake - who was named in the NRL’s team of the year for 2023 - would be virtually irreplaceable, especially at short notice.
However, Fonua-Blake will be part of the Warriors squad next season, with the club confirming the star prop will remain in Auckland for another season while assessing his personal circumstances for 2025 and beyond.
“My only motivation for this move is for family reasons,” said Fonua-Blake.
“But I really want all Warriors fans to know that I am fully committed to getting into the 2024 season. I can’t wait to get back to training with my teammates with the aim to go even further in the upcoming season.”
Lengthy discussions took place over the last 24 hours following Fonua-Blake’s request for a release, which have seen an initial compromise being reached.
The Herald understands As part of that deal, it might mean that the Tongan prop spends more time in Sydney, after away games and during bye weeks.
Addin Fonua-Blake of the Warriors in action. Photo / Photosport
It’s likely the club will be flexible, given the scenario and also his importance to the team.
Sources close to the player have indicated to the Herald that while his family situation is of utmost importance, he also understands that he doesn’t want to leave the Warriors in a very difficult situation, after all the progress made this year.
In his three years at the club, Fonua-Blake has emerged as a leader. He has taken that responsibility, especially with the younger forwards, and wants to honour that commitment which would make it hard to walk away, especially so suddenly.
The Warriors have always been accommodating with compassionate releases in the past but this is a difficult scenario.
Addin Fonua-Blake on the charge for the Warriors. Photo / photosport.nz
It would have been tough for the club to replace Fonua-Blake for 2024, with no one available on the open market anywhere near his ability. That’s partly because he has few peers but mostly because top-drawer props are premium signings and are always locked up early by their respective clubs.
Australian media outlets made suggestions of a trade but none of the clubs that could afford Fonua-Blake have any current props near his level.
Michael Burgess has been a sports journalist since 2005, winning several national awards and covering Olympics, Fifa World Cups and America’s Cup campaigns. He has also reported on the Warriors and NRL for more than a decade.
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