Austin searching for maiden finals berth
He debuted way back in 2011, but finals football remains unchartered territory for Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin.
That could all be about to change over the coming months as a favourable run home sees Canberra play three home games in four weeks.
After winning four of their last five games, Austin believes that his Canberra side is riding a wave of momentum heading into the business end of the season – an absolute necessity given the closeness of the competition.
“The next month is going to be really important to where we finish in the season, and we can’t wait for that,” Austin said.
“A couple of wins and you can jump three or four teams, a couple of losses and you’re sliding back below four teams.
“We know how congested the ladder is now and how important each week is. I think we made a lot of improvements [against the Titans] and can’t wait for what’s ahead in the next month.”
Austin and his halves partner Aidan Sezer have been a major reason for Canberra’s change of fortunes in 2016. Austin believes the pair are starting to gain some real cohesion after an interrupted start to the season.
“I think me and Aidan worked a hell of a lot better together [against the Titans],” Austin said.
“I think it’s something we worked really hard on over the break. I think there was a lot more clarity around our spine and we sort of knew when we were getting the ball and at what periods of the match.”
The 30-22 victory over Sezer’s former club pushed Canberra into seventh on the competition table – effectively sixth position once Parramatta is stripped of twelve points.
The win suggests that Ricky Stuart’s outfit have what it takes to match it with finals-quality sides, after a disappointing Round 14 loss to Brisbane put a dampener of Canberra’s form.
“The thing about [the game] was just [that] we had to come away with a win and we managed to do that,” Austin said.
“I think for large periods of that game we felt like we were well and truly in control, and we’re pretty happy with some of the things we were able to improve on.
“For us, it’s about getting better each week and hopefully we’re going to be firing come the business end of the season.”
Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker echoed his star teammate’s comments, saying that it was pleasing to see the side perform well in what he labelled “a tough environment.”
Injuries to four key players threatened to derail Canberra’s quest for the two points on the Gold Coast, but the Raiders managed to hold on for an eight-point victory.
“We hung in and had a few blokes busted there,” Croker said.
“It’s the old cliché but it’s a week at a time. We’ve had a tough win [against the Titans], so we’ve just got to lick our wounds a little bit and get back on the horse.
“It’s a week at a time, it’s an old cliché but it’s just how it is.”