Super League play-offs: Cheyse Blair loving life at Castleford Tigers
Watch Warrington Wolves and Castleford Tigers battle it out in Thursday's Super League elimination final, live on Sky Sports Arena and Main Event from 7pm
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 17/09/19 1:29pm
One of the biggest changes Cheyse Blair has had to get used to since joining Castleford Tigers is becoming a lot more recognisable when he is out in public.
The centre enjoyed relative anonymity in the sprawling metropolis of Melbourne - as anonymous as a 6ft 4in rugby league player can be, even without the distinctive moustache he now sports - where the city's NRL side, the Storm, vie for attention with nine Aussie Rules football clubs, a Super Rugby franchise and even two A-League football teams.
Swapping playing at the 30,000-seater AAMI Park for the more intimate confines of the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, one of the last traditional grounds still standing in Super League, has been an adjustment as well.
But the passionate Tigers supporters who pack the terraces for each home game and those who stop him in the street to talk rugby league have helped Blair and his family settle swiftly in one of the sport's West Yorkshire strongholds.
"Everywhere you walk there are people with Cas jerseys on and they're always willing to talk to you, and they just love their rugby," Blair told Sky Sports.
"Every game we play there, it's always a packed house. The crowd always feel really tight on you and even if there are only 10,000 there, it feels like 20,000, so I enjoy that and it's awesome.
"Melbourne is a bit more sort of an AFL place, so it has its good things and bad things. You're not so well-known and you can fly under the radar.
"Over here you're known a lot more, but I like that sort of stuff. I don't mind talking to people, and I love talking rugby and I love the game - and that's why I'm over here."
Blair has been busy making up for lost time since joining Castleford. He was granted an early release from his Storm contract to join the club in April, but had to wait for his visa to be approved and was left to train on his own while waiting for the call.
When it finally came, the 27-year-old went from landing in England to being thrust straight into action for him new club in the space of a couple of days - his first experience of Super League being, strangely enough, against Thursday's elimination final opponents Warrington Wolves.
That match at the start of May ended in a 26-14 defeat for Castleford and Blair admits he was not at his best that night. However, he has swiftly established himself as a regular in Daryl Powell's side and cannot wait for the play-offs to get started.
"When I first agreed it took about three weeks to get my visa, so in that time I just did my own training at home," Blair recalled.
"Once I got the opportunity to get on the plane, I got thrown straight in to playing two days later. It was a bit scrappy, coming straight off the flight and not knowing the plays and combinations, and that sort of thing.
"That's something we've been building and are probably still building now for myself and the team, but we've made the finals and finals footy is a different sort of game. The season starts again and it's something we're excited for."
The Tigers are the sole representative from Yorkshire to make the Super League play-offs this year, but they needed other results to go their way to confirm their place in the top five following last Thursday's 26-8 defeat away to defending champions Wigan Warriors.
So while the main focus for many others last Friday was the relegation battle, Blair and everyone else associate with Castleford were left nervously waiting for updates from Hull FC's game at St Helens, with a 22-6 loss for the Black and Whites meaning the Tigers snatched a play-off place on points difference.
The most important fact is they are in the title shake-up though and Blair is determined Castleford will do the White Rose county proud against their rivals from across the Pennines as they bid to go one better than when they were Grand Final runners-up in 2017 - starting with Thursday's trip to fourth-placed Warrington, live on Sky Sports.
"We should have put in a better performance than we did (against Wigan) and not to say we should have won, but we didn't play to what we should have," Blair said.
"It was all about the relegation on Friday, but we were looking for the updates and we've got our opportunity.
"We've snuck in and probably no-one is backing us to win, but it would be something to talk about if we were to come from Yorkshire to Lancashire four weeks in a row and win this thing."