Blake Austin has realised breaking into the NSW State of Origin team is no longer a pipe dream – and he wants to make it a reality in 2016.
Blues great Steve Mortimer led a chorus of calls for Austin to be selected at No.6 last year on the back of stellar performances for Canberra in the NRL and the City Origin side.
NSW coach Laurie Daley opted for Mitchell Pearce instead but Austin was still rewarded with the Dally M gong for five-eighth of the year.
And it seems the accolades – and constant backing by Raiders coach Ricky Stuart – have given him renewed hope of being selected next year.
“Everyone says they want to play Origin but you sort of know when you’re close enough to have it as a realistic goal – and it will definitely be one of mine (next season),” he said on Thursday.
“Everything that happened last year means nothing now. I’ve got to come out and play some good footy again next year to even be considered.
“I’ll just be plugging away and whatever comes will happen.”
Austin is still recovering from post-season shoulder surgery, with progress a little slower than his new teammate and expected halves partner Aidan Sezer, who went under the knife at the same time.
While he is able to run and lift weights, movement is still restricted.
“The medical staff are really confident that it’ll come a long way in the next week or so and we’ll be able to rip into a bit more stuff,” he said.
With a year at the Raiders under his belt and a solid `spine’ around him in Sezer, Jack Wighton and Josh Hodgson, Austin reckons his best is yet to come.
“If I really strengthen my passing game and add to my kicking game, I think I can go to the next level,” he added.
“I’m pretty excited about the year ahead.”