Warrington Wolves v Castleford Tigers – Historic bid sees Tigers faced with several big occasions
JUST FIVE months into his Castleford Tigers career, Australian centre Cheyse Blair is aiming to become part of club history.
Tigers are four wins away from being crowned champions for the first time.
Their play-off campaign begins at Warrington Wolves tonight (7.45pm) and Tigers face a tough road to Old Trafford.
To reach a second Grand Final in three seasons they will need to win three sudden-death ties, all away from home, but Blair reckons there could be no better way of doing it.
“No one will be putting a bet on us to win this thing, but it would be the best thing ever to come from fifth, travel to Lancashire four weeks in a row and win it,” said the former Melbourne Storm three-quarter who joined Tigers in May.
“That’s something that we’d be very proud of and something we’d always tell our families about going forward, about how big a deal that would be.”
Warrington finished fourth, two points ahead of Tigers, after winning only one of their final eight league games.
But Blair is wary of what the Coral Challenge Cup holders will throw at Castleford today - and says recent form will count for little.
He warned: “Obviously it’s a different sort of game, the games all get a lot higher (in intensity) and we’ve got a tough game in Warrington.
“They rise to the big games - they won the Challenge Cup - and these are all big games now for the next four weeks.
“We have a difficult task on our hands and some quality players to face so I’m looking forward to it.”
Both teams are on the back of a defeat. Warrington were hammered 26-4 at Leeds Rhinos last Friday, 24 hours after Tigers’ 28-6 loss away to Wigan Warriors.
Cas trailed only 4-2 at half-time and Blair said they need to play like they did in the first half for the full 80 minutes this evening.
“We were in that game,” he reflected. “We just didn’t come out of the sheds in the second half.
“They scored a quick two tries and it looked like we threw the towel in, but that’s not us. We’ve had some good training to fix it up, so we’ll be ready.”
Blair scored Tigers’ only try - his second in successive games after going 14 matches without crossing the whitewash.
That means he has silenced the banter from his team-mates - and avoided the traditional post-season punishment for players who fail to score.
He admitted: “It has taken a while - I’d played the first 13 games and didn’t score and the boys were getting into it about how if I didn’t score I’d be doing the nude run on Mad Monday. But I got one two weeks ago and another on the weekend, so hopefully they keep coming.”
Blair, an NRL Grand Finalist with Melbourne when they lost to Cronulla Sharks three years ago, is contracted to Tigers until the end of 2022.
“The family have settled in really well,” he reported. “The kids are young so it wasn’t that hard for them. Obviously Cas is a bit different to Melbourne, but we’re enjoying it.”
Adam Milner is available after illness and Will Maher, Jacques O’Neill and Calum Turner are also in contention, but Tigers will be without Nathan Massey and the suspended Jesse Sene-Lefao from last week’s team.
Harvey Livett, Dec Patton, Joe Philbin and Lama Tasi could return for Warrington, with Sitaleki Akauloa and Matty Smith dropping out.
Warrington Wolves: from Austin, Charnley, D Clark, J Clark, Cooper, Currie, Goodwin, Hill, Hughes, King, Lineham, Livett, Mamo, Murdoch-Masila, Patton, Philbin, Ratchford, Tasi, Westwood
Castleford Tigers: from Blair, Clare, Clarkson, Cook, Ellis, Holmes, Maher, Mata’utia, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, O’Neill, Rankin, Smith, Trueman, Turner, Watts.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).