SAINTS’ Fijian international centre Waqa Blake is settling in nicely after joining the club on a one-year deal for the 2024 season.

The pacy 6ft 3 three-quarter slots into the hole created by the retirement of Will Hopoate and he follows in the footsteps of Grand Final-winning compatriot Kevin Naiqama in wearing the red vee.

Going back through the years it is a jersey worn by the likes of Jamie Lyon, Matt Gidley, Jarrod McCracken and Mal Meninga.

Blake has a record scored 62 tries from 165 NRL games and has spent the last four-and-a-half seasons with Parramatta Eels - and was in the squad that reached the 2022 NRL Grand Final.

He has also been capped by Fiji five times, most recently in the 2023 Pacific Championships where he scored three times.

The Lautoka-born player has heard plenty about Saints and Super League from the club’s former centre Naiqama and he explained his decision to come to England.

Blake said: “Super League has always been on the radar but I was still in two minds because I felt like I needed to finish off a few more things in the NRL.

“I know what I am capable of and it is a case of me getting back on to the right path. I have now moved on and content with it.

“So to be able to come to a great club made me excited. It was best for both parties to sign just the one year - and it lined up for us both and it has worked out.

“This gives me the opportunity to play well here but if I play well here, and I am enjoying it, then I can hopefully extend here.

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“I am loving my time and they are a great bunch of boys and the St Helens community has all opened their arms wide open for me - so there are exciting times ahead.

“I saw St Helens beat Penrith last year in the World Club Challenge, no one would have thought it.”

The last out of favour number 3 Saints signed from Parramatta was a certain Jamie Lyon in 2005 - and Blake is impressed by the list of players who have worn the illustrious red vee.

“I am going to wear this shirt with a lot of pride, knowing that a lot of big players have stepped into that role.

“I’ve played with Kevin Naiqama with Fiji and he played a lot of good footy at Saints, and I watched the Grand Final where he won Man of the Match.

“He told me a lot about Super League when we were in Fiji camp, how special it is over there, and that Saints are a great bunch of boys, so I’m looking forward to it.”

All being well Blake will be facing Naiqama in the Round 2 game at Huddersfield.

“That’ll be a great match up and hopefully we can put it over them and catch up later,” he said.

Saints were in their training camp in Cyprus when Blake arrived in a snowy St Helens – something that was a shock to him as he got off the plane in his shorts.

“It was 40 degrees in Sydney when I left, but man when I got off the plane it was freezing and had never felt that cold before.

“The Saints guys that picked me up gave me a fleece jacket.

“I had never seen snow before coming here and that was a big experience.

"As soon as the players got here, James Bell started looking after me and Moses Mbye, both the expats and the English boys have been phenomenal with me and given me the confidence to go out there.

“It is no wonder that they have been up there at the top for such a long time. I am happy to be here.

“There is no doubt why they have been successful here."

Blake sees himself as a centre, but he has versatility to his game and can play wing.

He said: "I am a centre but I have had experience on the wing. You have to look at the advantages of being able to be versatile.

"We have a lot of strike in the outside backs and I see that with the younger boys that I have trained against too – it is an exciting time."

He will add to Wellens’ selection choices along the backline with current centres Mark Percival and Konrad Hurrell, with wings Tommy Makinson, Tee Ritson and Jon Bennison.