Sheens warning lifts Ayshford
21/09/2010 3:24 PM
A mid-season truth session with coach Tim Sheens led to the turnaround that has Wests Tigers centre Blake Ayshford ready to make amends for the worst day of his NRL career in Saturday’s preliminary final against St George Illawarra.
Sheens warned the 22-year-old he was on the verge of losing his first grade spot after a series of average performances, particularly in defence, as the Tigers struggled for consistency early in the year.
“The coach pulled me aside halfway through the year after a couple of crucial misses and said there are people chasing me like Geoff Daniela and Mitch Brown who want my spot, whereas last year I was the one doing the chasing,” Ayshford told Sportal.
“He said to pick my act up.”
“I probably felt a little too comfortable but getting the kick up the butt helped me.”
So too did the move to shift Benji Marshall to Ayshford’s side of the field.
The Tigers superstar’s constant barking at his outside men has been music to the young centre’s ears.
“Benji’s come over to my side in defence and attack and that’s helped me in both areas,” Ayshford said.
“He’s the ultimate player. He talks non-stop and tells me what we’re doing in defence, whether we’re rushing or holding back.”
“My defence earlier in the year was a bit poor but coming into the back-end of the season it’s got a lot better.”
That improvement will be tested against the Dragons, with Matt Cooper giving Ayshford enduring nightmares last time they opposed each other in the centres.
“I played him last year and he put two tries on me. Him and Ben Creagh carved me up a bit,” the Tigers star admitted
“It was only my fourth game and coming up against them was hard.”
“He (Cooper) is a NSW and Australian centre and I can’t let my guard down with him.”
“But I take a lot of confidence out of (my improved defence) and hopefully I’ll do better against him (Cooper) this time.”
Ayshford’s composure for such a young player has been a feature of his game since entering the NRL last year.
But he admits the nerves are starting to kick in a game out from the grand final.
“It didn’t feel like a semi-final last week but seeing all the fans and media here this week, it dawns on you that we are 80 minutes away from the grand final,” he said.
“Not many people can say they got this close. To win and get to the grand final would be awesome.”
“They (St George Illawarra) are well deserving of favouritism but we’ve got the team.”
“We’re all confident we can beat them.”
So happy for Blake (or maybe for myself becaue i just love tall centres). Been a big fan of his since he came into first grade but i must admit, there was one time this year i felt he could benefit from a stint in State Cup to work on a few things. He still has a bit to work on but thank god Sheens stuck with him because he’s a genuine weapon and his defence has lifted too (touch wood).
This is 100% true mid year I wouldve been happy to seen him replaced! Now he is dynamite!!!
and if we get a good winger (tuiaki/latu) outside of him next year we will be so deadly u cannot believe it. I mean atm TBH our right side attack is pretty average… all our damage is done on left.