This is the seventh article in a series naming each club’s best team of loyal stalwarts. Not necessarily just one-club players, but those who turned out for the club over a long period and helped build its success and culture.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart believes former Wests Tigers utility Blake Austin has finally found a home in the Raiders’ No.6 jersey.
The Raiders might have gone down 18-6 to the Warriors at home on Sunday, but it was through no fault of Austin.
He constantly looked dangerous in attack, finishing the game with 116 metres, two clean line breaks and eight tackle busts.
Since his NRL debut for Penrith in 2011, Austin has primarily played off the bench with only intermittent starting gigs at five-eighth, centre, halfback and fullback.
But the Raiders’ No.6 jersey has been begging for someone to stand up and make it their own.
Terry Campese was never the same after his knee injuries, Josh McCrone has reinvented himself as a hooker, Jack Wighton looks remarkably better as a fullback, and Anthony Milford left for Brisbane.
Stuart liked what he saw in Austin at the Tigers and offered him first dibs in the Raiders’ play-making role in 2015, and his first two stints haven’t disappointed.
“He’s been a utility player at his other club. But he’s now found a home at No.6,” Stuart said.
“He tests the defence.
“If we can get some more football in good field position then we’ll be even more of a dangerous attacking team.
“But I certainly think our attack is developing and getting better quickly.”
Meanwhile, Raiders players Jeremy Hawkins (dangerous tackle) and forward Luke Bateman (crusher tackle) will have a nervous wait after being placed on report.
However Stuart believes Bateman has a strong defence case.
“When a player turns his back and sits down, and it’s all so fast, there’s nowhere Luke Bateman can escape to,” Stuart said.
“He can’t just disappear if a player puts himself in that position in attack.
“I hope common sense prevails.”