His road to 100 NRL games has taken a longer route than most, but Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin feels “blessed” to be wearing green.
The 26-year-old will notch a century of games when he runs out for the Raiders’ clash with the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
The Raiders are the third club to have taken Austin on board and the playmaker says he is not lost to how big a hand Canberra has played in breathing life into his career.
“It’s taken a little longer than what some of the other players seem to take,” Austin said.
“But I’m so grateful for what the club’s been able to do for me and what I’ve been able to achieve as well.
“I’ve said before the boys have a bit of a joke asking me if I played any NRL before I came to the Raiders. I’m just blessed and grateful for where I am.
“I don’t take for granted where I’ve come from. It was only a few years ago I was a squad-filler at the Tigers screaming out for an opportunity so [the Raiders lifeline is] not something I take for granted. At the end of the day I’m just a kid from western Sydney that just loves playing footy and I’m pretty blessed to be where I am.”
Austin cut his teeth in the NRL for the Penrith Panthers in 2011 after having progressed through the ranks as a Doonside Roos junior in the Penrith District Rugby League.
Austin ironically made his debut against the Raiders at GIO Stadium in Round 25 in Alan Tongue’s farewell game.
The former NSW City playmaker started on the bench in the Panthers’ final two games of the season as halves Travis Burns and Luke Walsh pulled the strings.
He managed 13 games for Penrith in 2012 but just one in an injury-plagued 2013, before signing with Wests Tigers for 2014.
The three-club journeyman made 19 appearances for the Tigers in a season in which he often partnered Luke Brooks in the halves after the storied departure of Benji Marshall.
But a 19-year-old wunderkid by the name of Mitchell Moses arrived on the scene and Austin was forced to find a new home.
The Sydney-born star made his Raiders debut in Round 1, 2015 as the Green Machine powered to a win over Cronulla.
Knights great Matthew Johns praised the signing as the best of 2015 and Austin has never thought twice about his move to the capital.
“I went to the Tigers with a pretty big goal to really put my career back on track and I was able to do that and sort of came on the radar of the Raiders and haven’t looked back since,” Austin said.
“I’m really proud of where I’ve gotten myself to and from where I’ve come from and hopefully there are many more [games] to come.”
Austin will become the third Raiders player this season to reach the 100 club after halves partner Aidan Sezer and fullback Jack Wighton raised the bat early on.
Ricky Stuart’s men made the two milestone games moments to savour with wins over the Eels and Warriors and will look to do the same against the Storm on Saturday.