Head to Head: Lui v Blair
Adam Blair knows Brookvale Oval all too well, and would probably rather forget it. With his old sparring partner Glenn Stewart on the sidelines, he attempts to tame an entirely different beast this Friday night at the Fortress.
Part prop, part back rower, Dunamis Lui announced himself to the Manly faithful with some standout performances in 2014 after leaving Brisbane in the off-season. And it’s not just those at Manly who are taking notice: Samoan coach Matt Parish handed the 24-year-old his debut in the Four Nations qualifier against Fiji in May.
Since starting the first 10 rounds on the bench, 108kg Lui has played four games in the back row in place of Stewart and the suspended Anthony Watmough. After starting only seven times in four years at the Broncos, he is seizing every opportunity with displays the two stalwarts would be proud of.
The man they call ‘Nami’ has averaged 46 minutes, nine runs (70m), 23 tackles, and has made three tackle breaks in these four matches. He makes more metres in the second row (compared to lock), so some wide running at smaller defenders should aid his cause, especially late in the game.
Blair has vastly improved this season compared to last, averaging six metres more per game (80), and already doubling his tackle break tally (11). The Kiwi also leads the Tigers in offloads (22), with seven more than all of last year. This is where he is most dangerous and the ensuing second phase could cause the Sea Eagles issues, especially as Luke Brooks improves each week.
With reduced interchanges in the modern game it’s a huge benefit for teams to have versatile forwards such as these. And for Lui, versatility is the key because wherever he plays on the park, he operates on one simple instruction: run hard.