Blair rolls sleeves up for Country
He's found a home in Melbourne and a permanent spot in Craig Bellamy's line-up but earning his first representative jersey at the top level is a moment to savour for Storm centre Cheyse Blair.
A standout athlete in his earlier days playing SG Ball and NYC at the Roosters, the road to a Country call-up was well out of reach two seasons ago after being unwanted by the Sea Eagles and enduring a sour exit at Parramatta.
The Bilambil Jets junior is another example of Bellamy's coaching knack of bringing the best out of players at either the beginning or the backend of their careers in the Telstra Premiership.
"This is the first rep jersey for me so I'm stoked and proud of myself. It's a credit to the coaching staff at Melbourne for what they've got out of me," Blair told NRL.com.
"To get the opportunity to play in the final City-Country game is a huge milestone in my career and hopefully many more to come.
"To where I was to where I am now is a long way."
Twelve months on since creating headlines for playing in a long sleeve jersey, Blair revealed it was one of the first questions asked as soon as he arrived in Country camp.
"Dale [Finucane] and I stayed [in Sydney] after the Storm-Dragons game and we were the only players here. The first thing the country guys asked is if I wanted a long sleeve, I knew they were joking," he said.
"If they had it I would wear it because it's going to be pretty cold in Mudgee but it’s a day game too so it should be alright.
"We had them at training [in Melbourne] last year and our gear steward said you can wear them in the game so I tried it once and haven’t really looked back.
"I suppose it was a bit to get my name out there, I started playing good footy and was comfortable so just stuck with it."
After tearing the Dragons' right edge apart in Wollongong on Sunday afternoon, the 25-year-old now faces the prospect of coming up against Storm teammate Josh Addo-Carr in the City line-up – albeit on opposite sides of the field.
Along with the in-form duo, Melbourne feature heavily in representative teams across the weekend and Blair put it down to the side's strong start to the season and the committed coaching staff.
"It shows how good the culture is down there and how far I've come. To now have this opportunity to play for Country and represent where I grew up in Bilambil," he said.
"Craig [Bellamy] is a tough character and what he says and does to each individual player to get the most out of them is 100 percent correct so Josh and I have really formed a good combination on that left edge.
"From a Melbourne perspective we have about 17 players involved in rep footy this week so that doesn’t leave too many training down there but it just goes to show the success we're having."
The opportunity to head back to grassroots football and give back to a community is most rewarding to the North Coast junior, who admits he rarely has the chance to return home particularly throughout the season.
"I don't get back to Bilambil all that much… my parents are still involved with the club and they do what they can to help on game day so a game like this brings a bit of the limelight back to where I grew up and where my footy started," Blair said.
"When you come into these camps you know them from playing footy against them, its just more about how we're going to quickly gel together and form combinations within the week."