New Parramatta Eels coach Stephen Kearney has urged the Melbourne Storm to re-sign Adam Blair quickly before he comes off contract this year.
As one of the most resilient and dynamic ball-playing forwards in the game – and now Kiwis vice-captain – Blair is marketable. Sources estimate his contract could be worth somewhere in the vicinity of $280,000-$300,000 a year.
The Storm should be able to fork out the money now Greg Inglis has left and the likes of Brett Finch, Ryan Hoffman and Jeff Lima signed with Wigan last year – but Blair’s future has still not been finalised.
Kearney has dealt closely with the 24-year-old over the last five years. Blair started playing first grade in 2006, the same year Kearney rejoined the club as assistant coach.
“Adam is an integral part of any team. His performances and the way he conducts himself mean he must be a priority for Melbourne. He gives you no dramas; a quality individual.”
Kearney suggests Blair might be considering other clubs.
Storm football manager Frank Ponissi has said he is seeking to retain up to 12 of the club’s 30 contracted players for next year – with Blair at the top of the priority list.
Kearney says others – like New Zealanders Matt Duffie and Chase Stanley – will also need close scrutiny when they come off contract from two-year deals.
Duffie, the big winger who hails from St Kentigern College, made a fine impact in his debut season – scoring 8 tries in 14 games, including two against the Warriors. Stanley, a two-test Kiwi in 2007, faced a daunting battle last season behind Inglis and Dane Nielson. He made just five appearances at centre and on the wing.
Yet Ponissi has a large group of players to get his arms around. Gareth Widdop, 21, made his international debut with two tests for England. Storm’s 2010 player of the year, Ryan Hinchcliffe, will also be looking for a new deal and would expect a raise, as will Blair. Ponissi conceded in recent interviews it would be difficult to keep everyone.
The Storm also has six players on one-year deals, with some to get an automatic second year if they meet certain targets, and the increasing value of Duffie and Widdop could make for a tight fit.