'Looks like a joke': NRL player under fire over 'smart arse stunt'

Chris Young
Sports Reporter

Manly Sea Eagles prop Addin Fonua-Blake has been lambasted for donning a face-mask in front of the media before discussing potential pay cuts for NRL players.

The 24-year-old, who also wore the mask during training on Tuesday, came under fire from veteran NRL scribe Paul Kent.

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The Daily Telegraph writer described Fonau-Blake’s face mask as a ‘smarta**’ stunt’, amid suspicions the Sea Eagles were increasingly unwilling to make players available for media opportunities.

When speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Fonua-Blake said he was concerned about contracting the virus out of fear for his young family.

"I'm not scared, I just don't want to catch anything and take it home with me. I've got four young kids of my own and a partner, so I'd hate to catch something,” he said.

Later in the press conference, Fonua-Blake hit back at suggestions players would have to take a pay cut in light of the pandemic, due to concerns over the NRL’s precarious financial situation.

“If you sign a contract and a contract says you'll be paid X amount, you're owed X amount whether you play or not," he said.

"It might be a bit unfair on older players that maybe took a pay cut or younger players coming through that aren't on as much money as certain players that have to pay bills and pay rent and stuff like that.”

Fonua-Blake called out over ‘joke’ stunt

Kent, however, wasn’t buying it.

After dismissing Fonua-Blake’s face mask as a stunt, Kent said he wasn’t convinced Fonua-Blake was taking the pandemic seriously.

“I’m not convinced it was entirely about his own welfare and safety,” Kent said.

“Manly have been pushing back. I think they’ve used this whole pandemic as an opportunity to try and do less and less media.

Addin Fonua-Blake is seen wearing a face mask as he talks to the media during a Manly Sea Eagles NRL training session. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“They’ve assured us this isn’t the case, but I know they’ve certainly been doing that.

“That was basically a smarta** way to say they don’t want to do it.”

Kent’s NRL 360 co-host James Hooper was in agreement, suggesting the Sea Eagles players continued to treat the spread of the virus as a ‘joke’.

“That looked as though maybe they were having a bit of banter behind the scenes,” Hooper said.

“I know we’re being told that’s not the case, but it looks like it’s a joke.”