In my shoes: Cheyse Blair
Eight years and four teams.
My rugby league journey has been full of ups and downs but I could not be happier wearing the purple jersey right now.
I grew up in Tweed Heads, on the NSW side of the border.
It is beautiful in Tweed, the weather is awesome, the beaches are amazing.
All my family still lives up there, my younger sister and older brother. My brother recently came back home after spending eight years playing rugby union in the United States. He was over there for so long he even got to represent America in the Rugby Sevens.
Growing up I actually represented Queensland in surf life saving but represented NSW in footy.
I played footy for a junior club called the Bilambil Jets, 10 minutes away from Coolangatta.
I was with the Jets and playing school footy when I got spotted by the Sydney Roosters.
Actually it is a funny story, I should have probably came to Melbourne back then instead.
A recruiter by the name of Peter O’Sullivan was actually with Melbourne at the time and wanted me to come to the Storm.
I had a meeting with Sully and he gave me all the Storm gear and said we’d love to have you here.
But then soon after that meeting he came back and said, ‘Nah I am actually going to the Roosters now, come to the Roosters!’
So off to the Roosters I went!
It took a toll on my schooling though.
I’d do Monday to Thursday, fly to Sydney on Friday, play Harold-Matthews (U16s) and SG Ball (U18s) and then fly back on the weekends.
I wasn’t the smartest kid in school, I used to miss a lot through sport. It got a bit iffy there with school because I was away so much and missing a lot of it.
But they ended up keeping me there and after I finished I moved straight into my first full NRL pre-season with the Roosters.
I was still 17 at the time, but going on 18. Getting thrown into the big smoke straight away was certainly different, especially coming from a small town like Tweed.
I lived with a family in Bondi who helped me out a lot. I had no car and no license so they did everything for me.
At the time I just sat back and learned off some of the greats the Roosters had.
Freedy (Brad Fittler) was still there coaching, Braith Anasta was there and players like that. You just want to get out there and put your best foot forward.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a crack at the Roosters in my first two years there.
I played 20s and after those couple of years I got an opportunity to go to Parramatta.
The Roosters were a good club and it was a great place to live in the Eastern suburbs but there was more opportunity at Parramatta.
Before I even played a game things were looking up with the Eels.
As soon as I got to Parramatta I actually extended my deal on top of what I already had. I had two years and extended for two more on top of that.
The move seemed to be a great one for me, I got the nod for Round 1 to make my NRL debut in that 2012 season.
I played 22 out of 25 games which I was stoked about to be honest.but it was not a good year for Parramatta.
Next year a bit of drama went down, Sticky (Ricky Stuart) came in as coach and things change dramatically.
I didn’t play the first 10 games and then got injured.
And then at about Round 15 or 16 he cut 12 players and I was one of them. We didn’t see that coming.
He called the whole Club, the staff included, into a meeting.
During the meeting he put the names of 12 players up on a board listed under three categories:
1. You’re off contract, we don’t want you,
2. You are on-contract, you can find another club
3. You are 50-50.
I was in the second group.
Personally I didn’t think it was the right way to go about it. I was pretty filthy at the time. I was supposed to have physio straight after the meeting but I just went straight home.
You try not to dwell on it because you think, Am I horrible at footy? Am I not good enough?
At the time I was pretty angry and sad at the same time but it made it a lot easier for me, being injured, to deal with it.
If I was playing and got told I wasn’t wanted then that would have been proof I wasn’t good enough.
I spoke to my manager straight away, told him what was going down and he put his front foot forward and within a month I’d agreed to go to Manly.
It was a great opportunity to go to Manly because of the success they had had over the last 10 years but I knew it was going to be hard with the internationals that they had.
I went there, and ripped in. I put in the hard yards and got my opportunity.
We went to the semi-finals, that was my first experience of playing finals footy so it was something to remember.
It was a good time at Manly, they are a Club built on success and a really old-school Club.
The year after though things did not go quite so well.
That same season, in 2015, I did my back in Round 10 against the Dogs which put me out for about 15 weeks. I tried to come back a little bit earlier but it went again.
Manly weren’t going too well at the time, coach Geoff Toovey had been told he wasn’t wanted and they were looking to go down other options.
I was off contract and they just didn’t re-sign me, I’d think my injury probably played a factor in that.
To be honest it got to the off-season in 2015 and I had no idea what I was doing.
I was speaking to Gav, my manager who said we can go down to Melbourne for a meeting.
I was actually camping with my family at the time at Lennox Head so I had to fly to Sydney and then fly from Sydney to Brisbane.
I came down and had the chance to have a chat with Bellyache (Craig Bellamy) at a café on Swan St, Richmond.
I was upfront. I said, ‘Mate, I just want an opportunity, I have had a few injuries but I like what you do down here.’
He said ‘we would be keen to have you’ but they could only throw me a one-year deal because of my injury.
Craig mapped out how he does everything and what he thinks I can do. I think I put pen to paper not long after that.
That 2015 off-season was a big one in my life.
Not only was I moving cities but by partner Tammy had just given birth to our son Billy.
Tammy and I have been together for eight years.
I’d known her growing up, she is from Cronulla but moved to the Gold Coast, that is where I met her.
In 2011 we started dating and in 2012 we moved in together.
It was a bit weird moving down to Melbourne as a family. I’d been here before but didn’t like the place.
Tammy is really big on coffee, we love living in Richmond and I don’t think we will move out of here to be honest.
When I came to Storm for my first pre-season I came down here a bit overweight.
In pre-season I broke down straight away which I wasn’t impressed with, it was my fault, not keeping myself healthy.
I missed six out of the eight weeks of pre-season which wasn’t a good start when you’re only on a one year deal and trying to impress.
It wasn’t good but in saying that we got a bad run of injuries last year. Suli got a crack one week and I got the crack the next week and ended up playing the whole year and playing in my first Grand Final.
I re-signed in Round 25 last year and now Tammy and I love Melbourne so much we are looking to buy down here.
Coming down here, to a Club with stability has been great for me.
Before that I didn’t know if sometimes it was me because wherever I went the coach got sacked.
But at Melbourne Storm Craig Bellamy tells you how he wants it. You train hard and you get the most out of yourself. He gives you one simple job, you don’t have to be skillful or anything like that.
It is great to be here and now to have Billy Slater back, to play with him, Cameron and Cooper is a dream come true.
You don’t get many opportunities like that in your career.
I am looking forward to this year, especially what happened in the back end of last year, losing the Grand Final which sucks but that is footy I guess.
Hopefully we can continue our good start to this year and look for bigger and better things in 2017.