Just five months ago Cheyse Blair's Storm career was hanging in the balance, and it wasn’t looking promising for the 24-year-old.
Blair had yet to debut eight weeks into his one-year contract in Melbourne, but a call-up in Round 9 changed his season, and the ones to follow too.
A try on debut followed by a string of 12 matches in a row for Blair was enough for the centre to earn a two-year contract extension last month, as his future now looks settled in Melbourne.
"It was always in the back of my mind heading through the year and just signing a one-year contract coming down here, but once the deal was over it's footy time now," Blair told NRL.com on the pressures of a one-year deal.
"As soon as I came down here I felt pressured because I was injured for pre-season and missed the start of the year, and obviously didn’t start off in first grade.
"It's pretty disappointing that I didn't start, but once I got in there we started talking and obviously my footy has been going pretty well so it's done the talking."
Despite playing 12 in a row, fellow centre Ryan Morgan was preferred to Blair in Rounds 24 and 25, and Blair's personal finals aspirations were in trouble.
Luckily for the former Eels and Sea Eagles back, he was reinstated for the minor premiership decider against the Sharks, and a double from the centre helped the Storm seal top spot.
"It was [a huge game] for me as I wasn’t in the two games before that, and to come in and have a good game and get the win [was important].
Blair admitted it was tough during that period to be in and out of the 17, but the support of former Parramatta teammate Morgan helped him get through it.
"We get along well, we were pretty good mates at Parra together so he's helping me and I'm helping him," Blair said.
"It's a little bit [tough], but in saying that you can only just train as hard as you can and do the best for the team.
"If you're not playing you want to do the best for the team and help out as much as you can, but now that I'm in I'm stoked."
Blair now must prepare for one of the more exciting edge combinations the league has seen this season, as 'Leipana' come to town on Saturday night.
Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana have been at the forefront of Canberra's success over recent months – including Canberra's 22-8 win against Melbourne in Round 23 – and while Blair knows they need to be shut down, he's also wary of the size the Raiders possess in their forward pack.
"I think the [semi-final] was pretty scrappy, Canberra have just got that size up front that Penrith just couldn't handle, and Penrith shot themselves in the foot, they dropped so much ball, but in saying that Canberra are a really good team and they just capitalise on what they get," Blair said.
"They beat us [last time] and were obviously the better team. We weren't on our game, and they've obviously got Leilua and Rapana and they've been killing it lately.
"We'll watch a bit of video, but all I can do is do my best out there, and we'll try get out there and shut them down, and I think if we shut them down we'll go a long way to winning."
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