Warriors courageous to drop Addin Fonua-Blake: Bennett

Jasper Bruce |

Wayne Bennett has backed rival coach Andrew Webster for dropping Addin Fonua-Blake (pictured).
Wayne Bennett has backed rival coach Andrew Webster for dropping Addin Fonua-Blake (pictured).

Wayne Bennett says rival coach Andrew Webster made a “courageous decision” dropping Warriors superstar Addin Fonua-Blake after his dressing room walkout.

Fonua-Blake left the sheds before the team song and Webster’s post-match coach address at Magic Round, where the Kiwi club pulled an almighty upset on three-time reigning premiers Penrith.

Fonua-Blake’s management claimed that a poor individual performance in last Sunday’s 22-20 win had prompted the 28-year-old, one of the best props in the NRL, to leave early in frustration.

The Warriors are short on star power for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, with Tohu Harris, Shaun Johnson, Luke Metcalf, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Wayde Egan among those sidelined through injury.

But despite the long list of outs, Fonua-Blake’s “breach of club standards” has seen him barred him from the clash in Auckland, where the hot-and-cold Warriors will fight to confirm their first consecutive wins since round five.

“He’s one of the top players in the game, so that’s a pretty courageous decision the coach made,” Dolphins coach Bennett said of the call to stand Fonua-Blake down.

“I’ve got to assume he made it after a lot of deliberation and thinking about it. It’s never easy, those decisions, but I’m sure he thinks he’s done the right thing and I’m sure he has.”

It marked only the latest instance Webster had impressed seven-time premiership-winning coach Bennett.

The former Panthers assistant won Dally M Coach of the Year for guiding the Warriors to a preliminary final berth in his first season at the helm last year.

The 13th-placed Warriors have underwhelmed across the first 12 rounds of the 2024 season, though the win over the Panthers represented a significant step in the right direction.

“I think he’s been tremendous,” Bennett said of Webster.

“I think he’s done a great job. His team’s looked really good and they play great. They seem a very happy group.”

The Dolphins boasted a 7-3 record and place in the top four heading into round 12 on a three-game winning streak.

But the side has only needed to leave Queensland once so far this year, have beaten Parramatta at a neutral venue in Darwin, and are yet to face any of the other top-four sides.

Bennett shrugged at the suggestion facing a newly-confident Warriors was a unique challenge for the 2024 Dolphins.

“NRL is challenging every week. You play a good team every week,” he said.

“They’ve got good systems, good coaches, good operations. You’ve just got to be ready every week.”