Exciting Penrith Panthers centre Waqa Blake almost quit the game after enduring a tough early few weeks of pre-season.
With new coach Anthony Griffin working his troops to the bone, the 21-year-old contemplated giving it all away.
It was just too hard.
However as the weeks rolled on, things got better and Blake was slowly transforming into the powerful and explosive player fans had longed for.
Opening up to Extra Time, the Fijian product detailed the early struggles he faced when he showed up to pre-season well out of shape.
“At the start I was struggling a lot and I even asked myself if I should be doing this at all. I didn’t feel like I had it in me but I kept pushing myself each week and slowly and slowly things got better,” Blake said.
“It was only my second NRL pre-season but I can safely say it was the hardest yet.
“I arrived overweight – 108kgs – but now I’m feeling good at 95kgs and playing a lot better.”
The transformation of Blake is something to admire and fans got a glimpse of his hard work and determination during successful stints at the Auckland Nines and pre-season trials.
After debuting last season to mediocre reviews, many pundits were impressed and albeit a little surprised with Blake’s recent form.
While he played 18 games for five tries during his rookie year, Blake admitted he never felt entirely comfortable in first grade.
“Last year when I got thrown in I was excited, I couldn’t wait to play but once I got out there I knew I wasn’t ready,” he said.
“I had a disrupted pre-season and then with all the injuries, the coach had no choice but to play me. It was a learning experience.”
Blake’s inexperience brought on some harsh critics but in good Fijian spirit, he took it all on the chin and decided to use his ‘haters’ as motivation to become a better man and player.
“When Hook came in he wanted to instil a toughness into us and that’s helped me out physically and mentally both on and off the field,” he said.
“I’m feeling a lot more confident now.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.