SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 06: Willie Mason and Blake Leary lift weights during a Manly Sea Eagles pre season training at Randalls Gym, Brookvale, on January 6, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. PHOTO: BY RENEE MCKAY/GETTY IMAGES
BLAKE Leary’s road to NRL redemption continues to be lined in unusual ways – an NSW Origin legend is helping the Manly backrower’s game hit new heights.
With his career at the crossroads, Northern Pride premiership hero Leary made the bold call to link with the semi-professional Cairns club at the start of the 2014 Intrust Super Cup season.
It was a decision that would induce career-best form, starting with a blockbuster season on the Pride’s left edge and ending with a two-year deal with NRL heavyweights Manly.
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That promotion has, in turn, established a hands-on relationship with rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns, halves coach at the Sea Eagles.
Leary, 24 last month, says the daily tutelage of the former Kangaroos halfback could help unlock new and destructive elements of his game.
“To be able to work with him has already been a massive plus,” Leary told The Cairns Post.
“The coaches here have showed me a few things that I can work on and some things that I’ve been doing well.
“Even up in the north it was no secret that passing wasn’t the best part of my game and he (Johns) has been helping with that.
“He looks over our field sessions and steps in to tell anyone where we can improve.
“He knows what he’s talking about and I know the things that he has said have already helped me.
“Hopefully he can fix my passing game up because you can’t help but become better with someone like him around.”
MENTOR: Australian rugby league immortal Andrew Johns in his playing days for NSW. PIC: DAVID KAPERNICK.
While Pride five-eighth Shaun Nona played Leary’s offsider in the ISC, it could be household names Daly Cherry-Evans or Kieran Foran who could use the Gold Coast product to batter defences this season.
“They have only just come back to training after the Four Nations,” Leary said.
“But I can’t wait to build a combination with them.
“Already you can see why they are such good players; just playing against them at training is unbelievable.”
Northern Pride's Blake Leary scores a try during the Northern Pride v Penrith State Championship Grand Final 2014 at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. PIC BRETT COSTELLO
Leary, who made two appearances for the Cowboys in 2012-13, remains hopeful of making his debut for Geoff Toovey’s line-up in next month’s Auckland Nines.
To do so, he’s been busting his guts on the training paddock, mixing the hard work with his favourite pastime of surfing.
“I miss Cairns and the people there but I’m loving it here,” he said.
“It’s been tough to get used to the conditioning side because at the Cows and even the Pride we’d do a bit of work in the morning and maybe have another session at night.
“Here we just go from one thing to another so it’s been different.
“But I’ve always said that I wanted to get back into the NRL system.”