Ayshford's seesaw journey to 150
When Blake Ayshford ran out for his 100th NRL Telstra Premiership game five seasons ago, in his mind it was a given that the personal milestones would just keep coming.
He had wasted little time in reaching the century mark while with the Wests Tigers, missing just nine games between his debut in Round 11, 2009 and Round 19, 2013, when he coincidentally celebrated his 100th match against his current club the Warriors.
But while the first 100 were straight forward, the next 50 proved to be anything but, and at one stage two years ago Ayshford almost gave up hope of continuing his NRL career altogether, following an ill-fated stint with the Cronulla Sharks.
This Saturday night against the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium, game 150 finally comes around for Ayshford and coincides with his 29th birthday, with the 2007 Junior Kangaroos representative this week taking some time to reflect on the journey to date.
"I got to 100 real quick and it sort of probably made me complacent a bit, like I was going to be doing this forever," Ayshford said.
"As it has shown it has taken me five years to get 50, it's taken me longer to get to 50 [than it did 100].
"I am just happy that 'Cappy' (former Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden) gave me a chance the other year [in 2016]… I am lucky that I have friends and people who still thought I could play in the NRL.
"I always think some stuff happens for a reason, those tough times when I was at the Sharks, that all happened for a reason, because I went through some dark places there and it sort of made me come out the better side."
Despite being named on the wing for Round 7, Ayshford will primarily play in the centres against the Raiders in a tactic which coach Stephen Kearney has employed over the last three weeks.
As the only non-international in a Warriors' back five renowned for its powerful style, Ayshford doesn't shy away from the fact that he is an anomaly.
After getting his chance in the NRL in Round 4, following Kieran Foran's injury in the warm up for the match against the Dragons, Ayshford hasn't looked back, with Kearney praising his reliability on the field and tradesman like approach to the game.
"Blake to me is a bit like the plumber, you get him around to get the job done and he does it pretty well," Kearney said.
"He is probably not built like a couple of the other outside backs there and [doesn't] have the physical attributes… but he is pretty effective at getting his job done.
"That's what I like about Blake, [and] he is a popular lad among the boys."
Ayshford enjoyed his best game of the season last Sunday against the Parramatta Eels, running for 110 metres, breaking the line twice and setting up a try.