WATCH: Rivalry renewed as Castleford Tigers ace Cheyse Blair takes on mate at St Helens
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NEW TEAM-MATES and opponents – including a member of tomorrow’s rival camp – played a part in Australian centre Cheyse Blair joining Castleford Tigers.
Blair signed for Tigers from Melbourne Storm last month on a three and a half-year contract.
His research before putting pen to paper included chatting to former Parramatta Eels teammate Joseph Paulo – who will be in the rival changing room when Tigers face St Helens in tomorrow’s Magic Weekend finale at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium.
Blair confirmed he also spoke to Tigers’ Jesse Sene-Lefao, who he played with at Manly Sea Eagles and Wakefield Trinity captain Jacob Miller.
“I am good mates with him,” he said of Miller. “I played all my junior footy with him and I’ve known him since I was about 10 years old. There’ll be a bit of rivalry when we play each other.
“I just asked about the football and the area, the town.”
Calls from Tigers coach Daryl Powell and captain Michael Shenton also played a part in tempting Blair to Castleford.
“Daryl [Powell, Tigers’ coach] and Shenno [Michael Shenton, Tigers captain] rang me and said some calm words so I was happy about that,” he recalled.
“They persuaded me a bit so it was just about getting a deal done and getting over here.”
Three games into his new career, Blair has no regrets.
“I’ve settled in really good,” said the 27-year-old who was an NRL Grand Finalist with Melbourne three years ago, but missed their title win the following season due to a broken ankle.
“I’ve been staying at [Tigers prop] Grant Millington’s house for the last three weeks since I’ve been here.
“He has welcomed me in and shown me the ropes. The first thing I noticed was he’s a good chef! He’s cooking every night and helping me through the week and preparing for games.”
The attacking style of Super League and the English crowds have both impressed Blair during his first month.
He said: “Super League’s good, the footy’s obviously a lot different to the NRL, but the crowds build the games up and it’s really good to be a part of.
“My first game at home, against Warrington, it was awesome. They say when we’ve got a local derby here, with us against Leeds or Wakefield, it’s good. I am looking forward to that.”
Blair can defend when required, but feels Super League’s more attacking style suits his game. He added: “Melbourne’s game is built on defence whereas over here it is a bit more free-flowing and they throw the ball around a lot more.
“Since I went to Melbourne I’ve turned into a defensive centre, but I still like to get my hands on the ball. It has been good so far. I‘m still building combinations – with Truey [Jake Trueman] and Pete [Mata’utia] and learning the plays. I am just trying to bring what I bring in my own game to the team.” With captain Shenton on the casualty list Blair has stepped into the left-centre slot and Tigers will need him to be on top of his game tomorrow.
He admitted: “We have got a big task, St Helens have been the benchmark all year and they’ve only lost one game, but saying that, they’ve let some points in the last few weeks.
“We can use that to our advantage and hopefully come away with the win.
“We’ve had a good week’s training with the long turnaround so we are prepared and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Castleford have Will Maher, Chris Clarkson and Daniel Smith back from injury to plug the gaps created by the absence of Jesse Sene-Lefao, who is on compassionate leave, and Nathan Massey, who is injured.
St Helens have hooker James Roby back after he sat out the win over Salford with a minor injury. Aaron Smith is set to make way in the only change to Justin Holbrook’s team.
Castleford Tigers: from Aston, Blair, Clare, Clark, Clarkson, Cook, Eden, Egodo, Maher, Mata’utia, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Rankin, Smith, Trueman, Watts.
St Helens: from Lomax, Makinson, Naiqama, Grace, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Taia, Paulo, Knowles, Amor, Peyroux, Swift, Lees, Ashworth, Smith, Bentley, Coote, Costello.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 6pm.