THEY certainly didn’t set out to make a case in favour of the player draft. But if we end up having one, Cheyse Blair, Matthew Gillett and Ben Barba have provided ample evidence that it won’t be the end of the universe as we know it.
Take the lanky Parramatta winger Blair, an eye-catching performer in Parramatta’s tumultuous 29-20 win over Manly on Saturday night. Born in Murwillumbah, a Bilambil Jets junior and former Sydney Rooster, Blair baulked when his manager suggested last year he sit down for a chat with the Eels.
“I said ‘I’m not going to Parra – no way!’,” the 20-year-old said. “Now I’m glad I’ve come here.
“I’m a beach boy, I’m not a westie. I was living at Bondi, I’ve moved to Cronulla so I’m still near the beach.
“I get heaps of phone calls from family, from home, because I never see them. I’ve got a few mates who fly down, I get tickets for them.”
Parra’s own PR department hyped up Blair’s Parramatta Stadium clash with David ‘Wolfman’ Williams, a dual most observers say he won conclusively. “There was heaps about going against him,” said Blair. “I thought I went alright, yeah. I knew it was going to be tough.
“A few people said I had to run a bit harder and put a bit more grunt in the tackles.”
Then there’s Matt Gillett, the Brisbane utility whose childhood bedroom was plastered with St George Illawarra posters. Yes, that’s how young he is and how old you are – he didn’t follow St George or Illawarra as a little tacker, he supported the joint venture and grew up dreaming of playing for it.
On Friday he scored the match-sealing try in a 28-20 won over the Dragons at Suncorp Stadium. The man who kicked ahead for him to pounce on the pill in the final 10 minutes? Winger Gerard Beale, who is said to be joining St George Illawarra next year.