Ivan got it right: Waqa Blake opens up on demotion from first grade

Waqa Blake in action against Souths. Photo: Melinda Jane
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After missing Magic Round due to disciplinary reasons, Panthers centre Waqa Blake admits he feels responsible for Penrith’s 30-4 drubbing at the hands of the Wests Tigers.

The 24-year-old Fijian was axed from Ivan Cleary’s side to play the Tigers at Suncorp Stadium last week after he misread the schedule and was late to training.

Fronting the media on Wednesday afternoon, Blake owned his blunder head-on and admitted Cleary made the right call in dropping him.

“I let my teammates, the staff and especially the fans down – it wasn’t good enough,” he said.

“I was at home chilling and read the schedule wrong and wasn’t here. We are all professionals and you just have to be better.

“It wasn’t an overreaction from Ivan, we have standards that we’ve had in place since the start of the year. I was in the wrong and I’m just going to own it.”

With Blake missing and fringe first grader Tyrell Fuimaono thrust into the centres the Tigers took advantage, scoring several tries down Penrith’s right edge before Cleary switched Fuimaono with fellow centre Dean Whare.

Blake, who watched the debacle on television from his Penrith home, said it was “tough” to endure.

“I watched it all the way through, I always support my teammates and I’m always there for them,” he said.

“It was tough watching, but I put it back to myself. I disrupted the preparation a lot and I can’t put it on the boys. It just wasn’t our day and it hasn’t been for a couple of weeks.”

Blake has been named in Penrith’s starting side for Friday’s clash against the New Zealand Warriors at Panthers Stadium. The teams last met in week one of the 2018 NRL Finals, with Penrith big winners on that occasion.

After admitting he didn’t have the answers to Penrith’s poor form at the post-match press conference last Friday, coach Cleary has made several changes to his roster for Friday’s game with Josh Mansour and Reagan Campbell-Gillard the big casualties from the thrashing to Wests.

Blake said feels for Cleary and believes it’s on the players – not just the coach – to turn things around.

“We all feel for him (Cleary), he works hard and so does the whole coaching staff. I think it’s on us as players to step up and play some good footy,” he said.

“It’s been a tough few weeks, but I’m sure the boys [who got dropped] won’t take it too heavily. They’ll go back to wherever they need to and work hard to get back in, I’m sure we’ll see them again soon.”

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