Austin powers back after rediscovering mojo
For Canberra Raiders playmaker Blake Austin, focusing on why he enjoyed playing the game was paramount as he began his comeback from reserve grade.
The 2015 Dally M five-eighth of the year was the first big-name casualty of the Raiders' horror first month of the Telstra Premiership season, highlighted by the 16-point loss to Manly.
However, that proved a line in the sand as the Raiders have won their next two games against Canterbury and now Parramatta.
It was two weeks of soul-searching and hard work for Austin but he's put the bad memories in the rear-view mirror by helping to steer his side to their 18-2 win over the Eels at GIO Stadium.
"I won't lie it's been a tough two weeks, but I just really wanted to focus on enjoying my footy," said Austin, who was one of the three try scorers on Saturday night.
"After the two weeks I've had you get a lot of thoughts running through your head and tonight was just about backing myself, trusting what's got me here, and enjoying myself."
The 27-year-old said he knew coach Ricky Stuart made the right call to axe him, and teammate Josh Papalii a week later, as tough as that was to accept at the time.
"I wouldn't say it (axing) was a wake-up call, but the way my career went for a long time when I was younger, I had to deal with being sent back to play premier league (reserve grade)," he said.
"So, I knew how to deal with it, I wasn't happy with it, but I knew what it was going to take to get back in here.
"The frustrating thing was I was really happy where I got my attack to in the first three or four weeks.
"I had one or two glaring errors in defence that was marring my game.
"Sticky in a way had no choice but to send me back to work on things and that's what I did."
Austin wasn't the only positive for the Green Machine on Saturday with Joe Tapine (101 metres, 30 tackles), Junior Paulo (108 metres, 20 tackles) and Jack Wighton (121 metres) all laying excellent platforms.
After Stuart labelled the side "soft" after their loss to the Sea Eagles, Canberra has shown a renewed resolve to its fringe defence.
Just before half-time a desperate Parramatta side threw themselves at the Raiders' defensive line for more than four sets, but were unable to break through.
"Two night matches helps with your defence and what it’s done has built a bit of character, it's what we needed," Austin said.
"We obviously had a lot of issues with head knocks, and tonight (Saturday) to defend the way we did with 12 men when they were chasing points that's not easy."
The bench again gave a big lift to the Raiders with Shannon Boyd responding well to his shift from the starting side with, while Papalii racked up 133 metres and score a try in his limited minutes.
Dunamis Lui continues to provide solid carries through the middle in just his sixth game back from ACL surgery, giving Stuart real impact with his interchanges.
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"I just try and do my hardest for the team and to try and change the momentum when I get out there to lift the boys the give them some energy," Lui said.
But the task doesn't get any easier for Canberra, searching for three straight wins, as they travel to the Central Coast to take on a red-hot South Sydney side fresh off a victory over the Sydney Roosters.
"They've got a really big forward pack and they run it hard down the middle, but if we just keep working on our defence I'm pretty sure we can challenge them," Lui said.