Friend-ly environment to develop
NATHAN Friend's defence has never been an issue during his 10 years in the NRL but now it's time to develop other areas of his game and he says the Warriors are the ideal club to help him do it.
With a nickname of "The Hobbit", the Queensland-born hooker, who stands at 1.72m, should feel right at home in New Zealand and he is looking forward to linking up with the powerful ball runners and offloaders at his new club who he said can help take his game to a new level.
The former Gold Coast Titan met many of his new teammates for the first time yesterday, day one of pre-season consisting of a gym session after the first grade squad - minus their seven Four Nations' Kiwis - picked up their new kit.
A bricklayer by trade and a qualified personal trainer, 30-year-old Friend is used to hard work and it was that quality, plus his courage on defence, which helped earn him the Titans' player of the year award in 2009.
"I was given the opportunity to play first grade because of my defensive techniques but I needed to evolve my game and it was through the attacking areas," he said.
"I think this team, they've got a number of guys who can offload the ball, they're very dangerous with the ball. If I'm not passing the ball then hopefully I'm receiving a couple of offloads and taking advantage of that."
Friend made his NRL debut with the Brisbane Broncos in 2002 before moving to the Melbourne Storm where he played for four years, including a grand final defeat against the Broncos in 2006. He moved to the Gold Coast straight after, and played 100 matches for the Titans.
"I don't come in here with any pre-conceived ideas," he said of his move to the Warriors. "Seeing what the boys did last year [in making the grand final], it's very exciting for what's ahead. Hopefully they forget about last year and move on and try to prove themselves once again for this year."
Friend is generally one of the shortest players on the field and attracts attention accordingly. "I thought it was the head gear initially but I think it's the size of me that attracts the big guys but that's what happens in our sport. Me being a smaller bloke, they like to take advantage of that.
"I don't think about defending. I've been playing since I was five years of age so it's something that comes naturally. I just try to get the body in front of them and knock them over."
Friend's head gear became the centre of attention in 2009 when he was fined by the NRL for putting an advertisement for his personal training business on it. Now he is in Auckland he wants his playing to do the talking, and having signed a contract which will keep him at the Warriors for the next two seasons, the first impressions of his new home are good.
"I'm loving it, it's great. It's obviously our first day here [at the Warriors] but I've been here for four weeks,'' he said. "We're settled in, the family is great, the boys [aged four and two] are back into kindy and have got some swimming lessons today, so back into normality you could say."