AJ Lam takes his chance with both hands

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That 'be ready' mindset resulted in him getting seven starts in 11 games, scoring six tries and averaging 59 minutes per game ahead of the final.

 

Arguably, that has resulted in him being one of the more under-rated contributors to the Blues' season with his powerful runs down the sideline, and coming in from his blindside wing.

 

"The coaches told me to be patient, and when I did get my opportunities to make the most of them. That's all I focused on.

 

"I did that, and found myself playing in the quarterfinal and semifinal, which I am pretty happy about," he said.

 

Knowing that All Blacks contender and high-profile wing Caleb Clarke would push hard in his bid to regain Test status was nothing new for fellow left-wing Lam. The pair came through the grades together, along with Mark Telea, but Lam said he enjoys benefiting from the experience Clarke has gained.

 

Lam was a product of the Auckland system, and with exposure in NPC play before the Blues, he was happy with where that has taken him in the game.

 

Auckland's re-emergence, and now the Blues, has resulted in a growth in confidence.

"I get the confidence from the players that trust me, and also from the coaches that put me out there every weekend as well. I reckon having that confidence within myself, knowing I can do the job for the boys, and getting put out there every weekend has been a big cue for me," he said.

 

While setting records hadn't been a goal for the Blues at the start of the season, they were a reflection of their success, and satisfying because it was reward for the hard work they had put in.

 

He also benefited from being part of a backline with Beauden Barrett, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Rieko Ioane inside him and Stephen Perofeta behind.

 

"The big surprise is that this is the type of stuff you dream about growing up as a kid, and all of a sudden you are playing outside quality players. You kind of get star struck from here to there, but you are always here to do a job, so you know you have got to switch on and enjoy the time," he said.

 

Developing a combination with the centres is essential for any wing. In Lam's case, that was easier than most because he had known both Rieko and Akira Ioane since they were young when they competed in athletics.

"It felt like we had that connection coming through, and when I came into the Blues we were pretty close as well. It's easy to communicate with him when he is at centre and a real good player to play with as well," he said.

 

Perofeta's play at fullback had also made an impact on Lam.

 

"He's a wizard. Sometimes we wonder how he gets into little holes that no one can get through. His running creates a lot of space for us outsides as well," he said.

 

"Half the time it looks like he's just jogging, but he gets those bounce balls and it's hard to recover when he's got you on that 45 [degree angle] and you're just chasing him. He's always got you," he said.

 

Performing well in the regular season is one thing, but achieving in the playoffs is another.

 

Knockout rugby had shown it was down to performing in those last moments, he said, and that was something the Blues had to do in both their games against the Brumbies, including in last weekend's semifinal.

 

Going into the final against the Crusaders, it would be about backing themselves and their systems as they had all year, doing nothing other than what has been successful for them, while looking to complete their roles.

 

"The boys are looking forward to a big contest, we know what they are going to bring," he said.

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