It’s full steam ahead for Blake Austin, with the Canberra five-eighth unconcerned about whether his knee will hold up when he makes an earlier-than-expected return to the NRL on Monday.
Coach Ricky Stuart said last week he wasn’t counting on the star No.6 or halfback Aidan Sezer (eyesocket) making a comeback until at least round six.
But both have been named to play against Canterbury at Belmore, four weeks after suffering injuries in their season-opening win over Penrith.
“It was always the game I had pencilled in,” Austin said on Thursday.
“I worked pretty hard on my injury. It’s been torture. When you don’t have a game at the end of the week to look forward to, it’s tough times.
“But we’re back now and ready to steam right ahead.”
Austin lasted just 47 minutes in his first game since having major shoulder surgery last September.
He battled mental demons to make that comeback, but he insists they won’t be there this week.
“I think I’ll be like a kid in a candy store,” he said.
“I’ll just be happy to be back out on the field again and bring a bit of normality back into my life.”
Austin and Sezer have spent plenty of time in rehab together, both in the pre-season – with Sezer also having shoulder surgery at the end of 2015 – and in recent weeks.
It forced Stuart to rejig his halves combination, bringing in rookie Lachlan Croker for one match and English second-rower Elliott Whitehead for the last two.
But Austin hopes Monday’s match is the start of a long-running partnership with Sezer.
“Our injuries have coincided… but hopefully we can both put it behind us and hopefully put in some good performances,” he said.
“I’m sure that anyone that watched the first half against the Panthers could see that we came together pretty well and we’re equally excited to get back out on the field.”
Austin dismissed early talk of a State of Origin call-up, insisting his focus was on the Raiders and not NSW.