NZ Warriors prop Addin Fonua-Blake couldn't be happier for former teammate Reece Walsh, who's days out from making his State of Origin debut for Queensland.
After joining the Warriors from Brisbane Broncos in 2021, Walsh quickly proved to be one of the most exciting players in the NRL, and was called into the Queensland camp for the second game of State of Origin that year.
But injury on the eve of the match saw Walsh scratched from the Maroons' plans, with the now-20-year-old having to wait two years for his debut.
Walsh played 38 games for the Warriors across the better part of two NRL seasons.
In those games, he scored 10 tries and created a further 23, before personal circumstances dictated his return to the Broncos this season.
And as he continues to develop, Walsh's form in Brisbane has been key in their start to the NRL, sitting in fourth place on the ladder after the first 12 rounds, and odds-on for a finals spot.
In just 11 games, Walsh has 13 try assists and four tries, seeing Queensland coach Billy Slater opt to pick him ahead of Maroons stalwart Kalyn Ponga for next week's series opener.
While Walsh's departure from the Warriors left a sour taste in fans' mouths - coming after he vowed he intended to move to New Zealand after the club's COVID-enforced exile ended - his former teammates are simply thrilled to see his upward trajectory.
"I don't know if the team has [been following], but I have," said Fonua-Blake. "I'm pretty close with Walshy.
"I'm just happy for him. He's finding his feet in the NRL, and he's setting the world on fire - especially at the Broncos.
"He's got a lot to do with their success. I'll be cheering for him come next week in Origin."
Meanwhile, Walsh is just one of five players who'll be absent for the Broncos, when they face the Warriors in Napier on Saturday.
Payne Haas, Patrick Carrigan, Selwyn Cobbo and Thomas Flegler make up the rest of Brisbane's absent Origin contingent, as a depleted side will take to McLean Park.
For Fonua-Blake, though, player absences only open the door for others to put their hands up.
"They'll have a spring in their step," he added. "[They'll have] something to prove, those boys wanting to keep their spots.
"Teams that are missing their Origin players are still dangerous this time of year. They get those young, hungry players coming through.
"There's also the boys who'll be pretty disappointed [that] missed out on Origin, looking to put their best foot forward to get a recall next month.
"We're all here preparing for a hard game - like we do every week."2023-05-27T03:32:20Z dg43tfdfdgfd