Blake Austin insists he has buried all links to hometown club Penrith but one gripe remains – that Panthers star Matt Moylan should have way more than 70 games to his credit.
The duo played almost all of their junior football together at the mountains, however it took Moylan nearly two years to join Austin in the NRL ranks when he finally debuted in 2013.
By then a lack of game time forced Austin to look elsewhere for an opportunity, heading to the Wests Tigers before eventually finding a home in the nation’s capital last season.
Ahead of Saturday’s NRL semi-final between the two clubs, Austin revealed how he thought Moylan would be dominating teams a lot earlier than he is.
“I always thought he toiled away in (reserve grade) longer than he should have,” Austin said.
“In the end it’s a formula that’s worked well for him. He sat back and watched a lot of his mates debut a lot earlier than he did. But he got the last laugh. He’s playing really good footy.
“We played a lot of junior footy together, and -20s, and spent a lot of time at Windsor together too. To see him playing the way he is, it’s no surprise to me. I’m really happy for him.”
The pair now hold the key to their respective outfits when they face off at GIO Stadium on Saturday, with the winner to take on Melbourne for the right to a spot in the grand final.
Moylan is arguably the most in-form player remaining in title contention, while Austin’s return from a hand injury alleviates the probable loss of Josh Hodgson.
Austin, 25, said stopping Penrith’s forwards is crucial to preventing Moylan taking over games in the same way he did in the second half of their elimination final win over Canterbury, when involved in four of his team’s five tries.
“Moylan’s involvements, you can limit them by what you do in the middle of the field and the way you handle their forwards,” he said.
“You know Moylan plays a bit of a halves style in their team. The opportunities will be limited if your forwards are struggling. That’ll be the key.”
Austin’s history with the Panthers dates back to his time with junior club Doonside, but was frustrated by the scarce opportunities presented to him by then-coach Ivan Cleary.
He played just 16 games for the club before opting to severe ties, however he denied a win over the Panthers in what is his first career finals game would be sweet revenge.
“They’re a long time ago, the Panthers. Even the Tigers now, they’re just another team,” he said.