NRL recruit Cheyse Blair looks set for swift Castleford Tigers debut

HAVING experienced a similar scenario himself, Castleford Tigers head coach Daryl Powell will show no hesitation in playing Cheyse Blair tomorrow – despite the new signing still needing to meet his new team-mates having just landed from Australia.

Cheyse Blair. Picture: Castleford RL

The West Yorkshire club announced the powerful centre’s capture from Melbourne Storm almost three weeks ago but, after awaiting his visa, he only arrived on Tuesday night.

Castleford host Warrington Wolves tomorrow evening and, given their injury plight with 11 first-team players missing, Powell is set to throw Blair straight into action against the Super League high-fliers.

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Ordinarily, NRL recruits are given some time to adapt to not only the new competition but new lifestyle, too, but Tigers are in no position to afford the 27-year-old such grace.

Regardless, former Great Britain centre Powell explained to Blair how he faced the same sort of swift debut when he went the other way Down Under with Gold Coast Seagulls in 1991.

“I told him a story about when I played in Australia years ago,” he said.

“I had a quick turnaround as well so I know what it’s like; it’s tough but it’s doable.

“In ‘91, I got there on the Friday, trained Saturday morning and then played at Lang Park on the Sunday.

“But I played a full game of Reserve Grade followed by 50 minutes of First Grade. They were played on the same day.
It was interesting! We won the reserves but then (Brisbane Broncos)’ Allan Langer ran around me with about three minutes left of the other game and we lost that.

“My legs had just gone.”

Fortunately, Blair will not face such a taxing ordeal but Powell said: “We haven’t got the luxury to let him watch a couple of games.

“If he looks okay, he’ll probably play some part in Friday.”

The exciting player has remained training with Melbourne since the move was announced and had his first look at his new surroundings yesterday before being named in the 19-man squad to face Warrington.

Chase – who played in the 2016 Grand Final with Storm – will figure in today’s practice session and, hopefully, then take his place somewhere in the 17.

The former Manly Sea Eagles player was initially signed to slot in on Castleford’s problem right-edge.

However, their captain, Michael Shenton, the former England centre who plays on the left, was injured in the Easter Monday loss against Catalans Dragons and is now out for up to 10 weeks.

Powell said: “It’s ironic that it’s when we have lost our most experienced centre that we bring Cheyse in.

“It will be fantastic for us; he’s an experienced performer and I’m looking forward to getting him into the club.

“The challenge for him is to pick up how we play quickly,” he added.

“He’s played at one of the best clubs in Australia so he will be a great addition for us.

“I think he’s going to give everybody a boost just being here and he’s a big, physical player.

“He’s got a lot of ability and experience.”

Crucially, the coach hopes to see at least some of those 11 sidelined players return for the Coral Challenge Cup tie at Hull FC next Friday.

“It’s pretty tough for us at the moment with the number we’ve got (injured) and most of them are contact injuries in game situations so there’s pretty limited stuff you can do about that,” Powell explained.

“The week after, we potentially get some players back, but we’ll have to wait and see.

“Grant Millington, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Matt Cook, Junior Moors and Jordan Rankin could be back so there’s a few players who could come into contention.

“Junior wouldn’t have played last week if he hadn’t been banned from the knock he got at Catalans.

“It was a bad tackle that and certainly he wouldn’t have been available to play.

“I think we’d be pushing players hard if we were going to be putting them back out on the field and we don’t really want to do that.”

Blair arrives at Castleford on a three-and-a-half year deal, having been allowed to leave his NRL club early.

He has scored 33 tries in 82 NRL appearances since debuting for Parramatta Eels in 2012 including 18 in 38 games for Storm although he has not appeared for Craig Bellamy’s side this term.

Melbourne endured salary cap issues earlier this year that saw Kiwi prop Sam Kasiano join Catalans Dragons in March.

Tigers have dropped to fifth and aim to avoid a third successive defeat when they entertain second-placed Warrington, who vanquished Huddersfield Giants 50-19 on Sunday.

Former South Sydney back-row Jason Clark and ex-England centre Ryan Atkins come into their 19-man squad with Ben Murdoch-Masila and Tom Lineham dropping out.