Canberra’s NRL title quest has received a boost with five-eighth Blake Austin set to return from a broken hand next week.
Austin on Tuesday resumed running with the side just over two weeks after fracturing two fingers and having two plates surgically implanted following a training mishap in which he was manhandled by Paul Vaughan.
The sight of Austin running and passing with the side set off rumours he was set to be a surprise inclusion for Saturday’s qualifying final against Cronulla.
And while Austin said he wanted to turn out at Canberra Stadium for week one of the finals, he was told by his surgeon to cool his heels.
Instead Austin told AAP he was confident of being back for his side’s next clash, which will either be next week or in a fortnight, depending on their result against the Sharks.
“I was twisting (the surgeon’s) arm about returning this week,” Austin said at the Fox Sports launch of the NRL finals on Thursday.
“I was backing myself to play this week but it wasn’t the smart thing to do.
“I’ll just have to sit back and watch and whether it’s next week or the week after, I’d be confident that I could play.”
Austin was full of praise for his fill-in Sam Williams, who didn’t miss a beat in Sunday’s 52-10 smashing of the Wests Tigers.
Stuck behind Austin and Aidan Sezer in the Raiders pecking order, Williams has spent most of the season in reserve grade.
Williams is off contract at the end of this year and Austin said rival clubs would be foolish not to try to sign him.
“He’s starting half quality and he’s in a spot where he’s spent most of the season in premier league,” Austin said.
“I’m sure he’d compliment a lot of teams. Whether he sticks around at the Raiders or moves on, I think clubs would be silly not to have a look at him.”
Austin revealed he was injured trying to take on 110kg prop Vaughan in a wrestling drill, only to be tossed around like a rag doll.
“We were wrestling on the mats and I came in to tackle big Paul Vaughan and he threw me off pretty easily and a few of the boys giggled,” Austin said.
“As I’m falling, I put my hand out, I got my fingers caught in the wrong spot.”