Austin etches own formula for success
In terms of NRL success stories last season Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin would almost be atop the pecking order, but that doesn't mean the former Panther and Tiger will be taking things lightly in 2016.
Having played just 35 first grade games across four seasons, in almost as many positions, Austin headed to the nation's capital at the beginning of last year searching for career stability.
He got that and more, starring for the Raiders to earn a City Origin debut and a Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year award for his efforts.
Austin played 23 games for Canberra before a shoulder injury ended his season and has worked hard all pre-season to ensure he's recovered by season start, with Sam Williams and former Titan Aidan Sezer shooting for Raiders' halves spots.
"It was only sort of 18 to 24 months ago that I was screaming out for that stability so that is fresh enough in my mind to know that I have to keep working hard or I'll slip back down the rungs on the ladder," Austin told NRL.com.
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"I know the formula to success now, it took me a while in my career to learn what it takes to get to where I want to be, so I have a trust in that formula and I'm confident with what I've put in over the pre-season.
"I have written some goals down for the year and all I'll say about them is I know what it takes to achieve them now – and that's through hard work and consistent footy."
Austin is confident of recovering from his shoulder injury for Canberra's Round 1 clash against Penrith, despite being yet to return to full-time training.
But he knows the arrival of Sezer and the presence of Williams means there will be genuine competition for halves spots at the Raiders this season.
"I back myself to get a jersey there in the halves and I'm confident I've put in the work I've needed, to ensure I'm there," Austin said.
"I'm sure Aidan hasn't come here to play a back seat role either, so the one positive we're going to have here is that we're going to have three NRL quality halves here.
"Whoever gets those jerseys come Round 1 is going to continue having to work hard because there are going to be others chomping at the bit to get into the team."
With Sezer and Austin favoured to be Canberra's initial halves partnership come March, Sezer's own shoulder woes could prove beneficial for both men in the long run.
In rehab together for a fair chunk of the pre-season, the two have built the foundations for success both on and off the field.
"It was one of the main positives to come out of the situation earlier on in the piece. I think to get ourselves on a level friendship-wise and partnership-wise in the rehab group together was really good," Austin said.
"It's going to hold us in good stead come the back half of the season. We have been doing plenty more on the paddock more recently, and obviously we've been doing a lot with Sammy as well."
Austin also detailed that he and Sezer have "respected each other the whole way through" since facing each other in the 2007 Harold Matthews Under 16s grand final, where Sezer's Bulldogs sunk Austin's Panthers in golden point extra-time.
This story first appeared on NRL.com