Cheyse Blair ‘doing it tough’ on and off the field for Castleford Tigers
ALL PLAYERS – and their families – have had to make sacrifices during the pandemic, but Castleford Tigers’ Cheyse Blair more than most.
The Australian centre/second-row’s wife and children returned to their native Australia in January, while he stayed on to fulfil his commitment to Tigers.
“With Covid it got a bit hard,” Blair explained.
“My kids weren’t in school – because they were closed at the time over here – and I wanted them to be in school.
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“It was hard for my missus, but we made a decision for me to stay and hopefully I can go home in the off-season to see them.
“It was a tough decision, but the way the world is at the moment, we sort of had no other options.”
Injuries have made this year even harder for Blair, but he is back in the squad for tonight’s Betfred Challenge Cup final rematch at St Helens and keen for a strong end to the campaign.
“It has been an inconsistent year for me,” he admitted.
“I did my calf in the pre-season and that put me on the back foot and then I had back-to-back hamstring tears, in both my hamstrings.
“It has been hard being out for four weeks, playing one game and being out for another four, but I am back this week so hopefully I can finish the season on a high and play some consistent footy every week.
“We’ve got some games that are going to come thick and fast and a few short turnarounds so for every player to be healthy is going to benefit us.”
Tigers have never won away to Saints in Super League, but Blair reckons that can change tonight.
“We always try to go over there with a positive attitude and high hopes of winning,” he insisted.
“The year I got here, in 2019, we went pretty close – it was 4-0.
“They are a really good team and obviously the benchmark of the competition.
“It is always a hard trip, but once we get over there we are pretty confident in what we can achieve and it’s the same this week.”
Tigers are on the back of a 32-18 win at Leeds Rhinos last Friday, when they survived long spells of heavy pressure on their own line.
“The way we defended that game brought back a bit of what we can do,” Blair said.
“Saints can score points all over the park so we have to be on our game but, if you go back to Wembley, we were in that game for all of it, so there’s nothing to say we can’t beat them.”
Liam Watts and George Griffin are also back in contention this evening, with Jimmy Keinhorst – whose spell on loan from Hull KR has ended – and Alex Foster dropping out from the team which beat Leeds.
James Bentley, who will join Rhinos next season, returns to Saints’ squad for the first time since suffering a broken leg in April.
St Helens from: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Thompson, Bentley, S Mata’utia, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Paasi, Welsby, A Smith, Batchelor, Dodd, Simm, Davies.
Castleford Tigers from: Evalds, Olpherts, P Mata’utia, Richardson, Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Blair, Milner, Massey, Griffin, Hepi, Clare, Sene-Lefao, D Smith, Eden, Matagi, Turner, Bienek, O’Brien.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Today, 7.45pm.