NRL: Addin Fonua-Blake reveals 'miscommunication' behind request for early release from NZ Warriors

Returning to Mt Smart for pre-season training after the Christmas break, NZ Warriors forward Addin Fonua-Blake has one bulletpoint at the very top of his 'to do' list.

In December, Fonua-Blake sent 'Warriors Nation' into mourning with his request for an early release from the club on compassionate grounds after the upcoming season, eventually signing a four-year deal with Cronulla Sharks. 

Walking into the team's first meeting of 2024, Fonua-Blake asked for a moment to address and add some closure to the situation with his teammates, pledging his unequivocal commitment to ensuring the Warriors go two steps further this year.

Addain Fonua-Blake at Warriors training.
Addain Fonua-Blake at Warriors training. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I just didn't want it to linger on," he said. "The Warriors isn't about me... it's about everyone here.

"I didn't want to come in and always be the talking point of the team. I wanted us to come in here and focus on the team first, so I feel like I had to get up and address it.  

"Once I addressed it, I feel like we all moved on, so I'm pretty happy that it's behind us. All the boys are here and we've just been ripping in every day, ready to go after this year."

Fonua-Blake has also taken the opportunity to set the record straight over a "miscommunication" that suggested his requests were for an immediate departure. 

The Sydney native insists he had every intention of playing out one swansong season with the Warriors, before returning across the Tasman.

"It was a bit of a mishap - a miscommunication," he explained. "I never wanted to go straight away.

"I always told them that this would be my final year here, due to unforeseen circumstances."

Fonua-Blake was in England on international duty with Mate Ma'a Tonga, when he advised the Warriors of his predicament, conscious of allowing them as much time as possible to process the situation. 

"It was pretty rushed, which is probably why it came out the way it did," he explained. "It was a rough conversation.  

"I was overseas in England with the Tonga team, obviously with a lot of commitments over there. I felt like I wanted to wait until I came back to have the conversation, but I didn't want to wait too long and drop it on them the day before pre-season.  

"Sometimes, when you say things over the phone, it can get misunderstood a bit and I feel like that's the way it was. I'm just happy that we've sorted it all out."

Fonua-Blake says the club's sympathy to his wish to be closer to family makes him even more determined to leave Auckland on the highest note possible. 

Addin Fonua-Blake celebrates a try with his teammates last season.
Addin Fonua-Blake celebrates a try with his teammates last season. Photo credit: Photosport

"I'm just incredibly grateful to the club for being so understanding. I've got a lot to give this club and I owe the club a lot, so that's the whole reason  this year is going to be a big year."

Along with resurgent half Shaun Johnson, the Tongan international was the driving force of the Warriors run to the preliminary final last year - arguably both the team's most consistent and most dangerous weapon. 

The bulldozing front-rower led the competition in post-contact metres (1670), winning Dally M Prop of the Year. Entering his final Warriors campaign, he plans to raise that bar even further, although he admits there will be an undeniable "bittersweet" taste to the year. 

Captain Tohu Harris has seen the evidence of Fonua-Blake's commitment to the team written all over the pre-season trainingfields.

"He's been outstanding at training, the buy-in from him," he noted. "He's putting everything he can into this year to finish on a positive note with the club.

"There hasn't been one single sign showing anything else. We're excited for him to still be with us this year and hopefully we can send him out on the best possible note."

Coach Andrew Webster and Addin Fonua-Blake during pre-season training.
Coach Andrew Webster and Addin Fonua-Blake during pre-season training. Photo credit: Photosport

With coach Andrew Webster's system embedded, Fonua-Blake says there's an even greater sense of belief throughout the squad through the pre-season. What better parting gift than delivering the Warriors faithful their long-awaited maiden premiership, after falling just two wins shy in 2023.

"It feels a lot more upbeat," said Fonua-Blake. "Last year was a new system coming in.

"A few question marks early - is this going to work or are we up for the challenge - but everyone bought in last year and the results spoke for themselves. I feel like everyone knowing that the hard work we've done actually got us to how far we've got.  

"I feel like we're going to double down on it this year and the aim is to get to the big dance."

The Warriors have reportedly tabled an offer to Auckland-born Cronulla Sharks prop Braden Hamlin-Uele to help the fill the void left by Fonua-Blake from 2025.