A CLOSE shave on the field will lead to one off it for Castleford Tigers’ Australian centre Cheyse Blair.
Blair joined Tigers from Melbourne Storm in May and, despite some impressive performances, went 14 games without getting over the whitewash.
With time in the season running out, he eventually broke his duck in Tigers’ final home game, last week’s 44-12 thrashing of Hull and admitted it was a relief to get off the mark – and end the ribbing from his teammates.
Blaire confirmed: “It has been 12 weeks of hell!
“The boys have been into me and I’ve been growing a beard until I scored, so now I’ve got over the line I can get rid of it.
“I can’t wait, it has been that itchy!”
On a more serious note, the big victory lifted Tigers above Hull into fifth place in the Betfred Super League table going into the final round.
It was a must-win game for Tigers who would have been out of the play-offs picture had they lost.
Instead, Castleford can prepare this week knowing they will finish in the top-five if they win their final game of the regular season at Wigan Warriors or Hull lose at home to league leaders St Helens.
“It has got us into the top-five which is where we want to be,” Blair said of beating the Black and Whites.
“We have been playing good footy the last five weeks, defence has been awesome and we’ve been throwing the ball around and scoring some points.
“Both teams wanted it, but we wanted it more and we came out on top.”
Getting anything out of in-form Wigan will be a challenge, but Blair reckons it is exactly the sort of test Castleford need a week ahead of the play-offs.
Cas hit back to win 38-28 at home to the defending champions in April, but were pipped 6-4 there late the same month.
“It is always tough going over there; they are a class side,” Blair said.
“Over the last six or seven weeks they’ve hit some good form and they are built for play-offs – they are a big club and a good team.
“It’s a big one for us, we are on the road and hopefully we’ll get a lot of fans going over there to help us because [last week] they were awesome.”
Tigers could lose and still squeeze into the play-offs on points difference if Hull also come unstuck, but Blair stressed they don’t want to be relying on a result elsewhere.
Castleford will be straight into sudden-death action if they qualify for the semi-finals and he said they need to have some momentum behind them.
“We want to go in good form,” Blair insisted.
“We don’t want to go there [to Wigan] and get flogged and then go into the first play-off game off a bad loss.
“We just need to go over there and rip in.”
Injury-hit Tigers have had an up and down season, but the seven-try performance against Hull highlighted what they are capable of and suggested they could do some damage in the play-offs.
They will go in as outsiders to reach Old Trafford, but have Blair noted: “Finals is a different game of footy.
“I haven’t been a part of it over here yet, but Cas have been in there a few years in a row so we’re looking forward to it and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Blair was a significant mid-season recruit for Tigers and said he has loved every moment.
“I am enjoying it and my family has settled in really well,” he confirmed.
“Obviously the summer wasn’t too good – before I came over people said you are timing it really well, but the boys said it has probably been the worst summer for the last five years.
“It is getting a bit chilly at night already, but me and my partner and the kid will get wrapped up and we’ll get ready for the finals”