Ayshford eager for Stanley reunion
There were countless times in the last four seasons when Blake Ayshford thought he'd never get to share a rugby league field with his good mate Chase Stanley again.
Between Stanley's horror run of shoulder, knee and hamstring injuries in recent times, which restricted him to just 20 NRL Telstra Premiership games in four years, and Ayshford very nearly giving up his NRL career at the end of 2015, there was every chance the former Endeavour Sports High schoolmates wouldn't meet again in a competitive match.
But this Friday night when Ayshford's Warriors host Stanley's Bulldogs at Mount Smart Stadium, the pair will face off for the first time since Round 2 of the 2014 season, with Ayshford putting rivalries aside this week to share his joy at seeing Stanley back on the field a year on from suffering his second ACL tear.
"It will be good to see him out there, it was really good to see him make his return the other week and I thought he played well for his first game back in a year," Ayshford told NRL.com.
"We played in the same footy team at school and saw each other every day. I was there with him at school when he made his debut as a youngster, but it's been tough on him since with the injuries he has had.
"It depends what side I am on as to whether we will come into contact, because I am usually against Josh Morris on the other side, I will be looking forward to it either way.
"It's just a credit to how tough Chase is that he is still here. He is 28 now and has only just cracked 100 games. It's been a tough run for him but I know the class and skill he has got."
Stanley made a solid return to first-grade a fortnight ago in the Bulldogs' 16-2 victory over his former club the St George Illawarra Dragons, contributing 82 run metres and a tackle break from 19 receptions.
But it was off the ball that he showed his true value according to Ayshford, as he played his role in keeping the prolific Dragons without a try across the 80 minutes.
"He was pretty rock solid in defence, between him and the Morris boys, who are world class, they keep those edges together well," Ayshford said.
"With those edges as solid as they were, and with the class they have got out there, the middle just talks care of itself with the likes of Aiden Tolman, Josh Jackson and [David] Klemmer.
"That's a big defensive feat what they did a couple of weeks ago against the Dragons, and I don't think too many teams could have done that this year with the way the Dragons are attacking.
"Their defence is something we will look at and figure out a way we can play our Warriors style of footy and hopefully go better at breaking them down than the Dragons did."