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'You can't prepare': How Blake plans to handle Cleary's bombs

Waqa Blake knows he will be tested under the high ball by Nathan Cleary in Sunday night’s grand final – and it has little to do with his performance in the opening finals series match between the two teams.

Blake began his career alongside Cleary at Penrith and would watch him practice the floating torpedo kicks that have terrorised so many wingers in the NRL.

Fellow Fijian winger Taane Milne was targeted by Cleary in last weekend’s preliminary final defeat of South Sydney and Blake is prepared for the same treatment.

Waqa Blake celebrates a try with the Eels fellow Fiji star Maika Sivo
Waqa Blake celebrates a try with the Eels fellow Fiji star Maika Sivo ©NRL Photos

“I saw it on the weekend, I was watching the game and I thought Taane did well,” Blake said.

“Everyone knows Nathan is the best in the game at doing it, but I am just focused on myself and doing my best for the team - obviously catching high balls but also finishing off and being able to defend well.”

Asked if he had been doing any extra work to ready himself for the aerial assault from Cleary’s right boot, Blake said: “You can’t prepare, you have just got to try and get under it and catch it”.

However, the 27-year-old Fiji Bati star holds no fear for the challenge he will face in the premiership decider, despite spilling three Cleary bombs when the two teams last met.

Cleary's bombs causing all sorts of headaches

“After my performance the first week I am looking forward to this weekend,” Blake said. “There were a few crucial errors in that game, even by myself, that unsettled us.

"I don’t think that we got to play to our full potential but there is no better time to do it than this weekend.

“There are no other games after this, this is it. It is anyone’s game, and we are going to worry about ourselves.

“Even for myself, heading into the game, I am just going to worry about putting in a good performance, running hard and obviously being able to defend.”

Waqa all smiles

Born in Lautoka, Fiji, Blake moved to Australia at the age of nine and was recruited by the Panthers from the WA Pirates SG Ball team in 2013.

He played alongside Cleary at the Panthers until leaving midway through the 2019 season to join Parramatta.

“Since he started his career, he was always the last one to leave the field after training and I just remember the last thing he was doing was those high bombs,” Blake said.

“I’ve got to do my best to get underneath it, and other than that just move on from it.

“After the game against Penrith we came into video and we just did what we needed to do. Then we just got rid of it.

"Whatever has happened in the past, even with last weekend’s game, we did our video straight away and now it is time to move on. I'll be ready on Sunday."

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