Leeds Rhinos’ Blake Austin: Warrington Wolves shafted me, it’s time to get revenge

ALTHOUGH he felt “shafted” by Warrington Wolves, Blake Austin insists he does not feel bitter about his exit – and is looking forward to playing his finest football yet for Leeds Rhinos.

Leeds Rhinos' Blake Austin: In pre-season friendly with Featherstone Rovers.  Picture: Tony Johnson
Leeds Rhinos' Blake Austin: In pre-season friendly with Featherstone Rovers. Picture: Tony Johnson

The Australian stand-off, 30, is one of the West Yorkshire club’s star signings ahead of the Betfred Super League season which starts in a little over three weeks’ time.

A ‘marquee’ capture when joining Warrington from Canberra Raiders in 2019, at times Austin has been one of the competition’s brightest lights.

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He was shortlisted for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel in his debut campaign which also ended with him making his Great Britain debut.

However, the arrival of fellow Lions tourist George Williams – ironically from Canberra – in July was the beginning of the end for his time at the club and he struggled for game-time towards the end of the 2021 campaign.

Leeds announced in August that he would join them for 2022 and they hope he can recapture his best form and help spark them towards a first Grand Final success in five years.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, about whether he felt frustrated last year, Austin conceded: “To be fair, I was pretty bitter how things ended for me at Warrington.

“I think they obviously made the decision for George (Williams) to come in. I thought I was playing some pretty decent footy in the mid section of last year and, without sounding blunt, to be shafted the way I was was a little bit disappointing.

“But I’ve been in these positions before; it’s about not being bitter. I’m certainly not bitter to Warrington; I enjoyed every moment there.

“And it’s not lost time either. I’m grateful to Leeds for bringing me over and giving me the start. It’s about not looking back now. And playing some good footy.”

Austin’s hopes of doing that are augmented by the fact he will be lining up alongside a familiar face this term: his former Canberra half-back partner Aidan Sezer.

The gifted Australian scrum-half, who helped Raiders to the 2019 NRL Grand Final, has also joined Leeds following a two-year stint at Huddersfield Giants.

“We are really close mates,” said Austin, him and Sezer also being the same age and together for three years in the Australian capital.

“Of course the chance to play together again was appealing once we found out.

“It’s not something we actively pursued – you don’t really get a say do you unless a club pops up that’s interested in both of you and in the market for two halves?

“But when I started talking to Rich (Agar) and Leeds said it was something they’d look at, it was definitely exciting for sure.”

They have played together in friendlies against Wakefield Trinity and Featherstone Rovers and it will be intriguing to see them do so for the big kick-off.

Ironically, that is against Warrington at Headingley on Saturday February 12 – the first game to be broadcast live as part of Super League’s exciting new deal with Channel 4.

Knowing Sezer has helped the transition and he says they could be linking in a more traditional manner rather than taking different sides of the pitch.

“I think the best half-back pairings are a little bit more old-school, truth be told,” added Austin.

“There’s left and right sides but we only really want to use that for our defensive continuity.

“We don’t even talk about halves as much anymore; we have three spine players – a half, a five-eighth (stand-off) and a full-back – and I think the best teams just find a way for those three players to really compliment each other.

“That’s something we’re working really hard on to achieve this year. They are all vital to success and if you can’t get them all firing then you’re not going to be firing on all cylinders.

“(Full-back) Richie Myler’s brilliant out the back, Aidan’s a director and I’m probably at my best when I’m free and can sort of get my eyes up and pick my time.

“So, on paper, all the attributes are there for us to mould quite nicely but you’ve still got to put that together on the field and make sure you’re all cohesive.

“The move’s gone great and I can’t wait to get started. I’ve only signed a one-year deal but that will get the best out of me which, in turn, is the best for the club. If I start well, I’m sure we can talk.”