Blues great Brad Fittler has implored Blues selectors to take a punt on Blake Austin, declaring the Canberra five-eighth a potential State of Origin match-winner.
The Blues halves picture became only murkier after Sunday’s City-Country clash in Wagga Wagga with incumbent NSW No.6 Josh Reynolds being put on report twice, and in danger of missing game one in an otherwise disappointing performance.
Austin, meanwhile, put his best foot forward to impress NSW coach Laurie Daley, who was watching on in the stands at McDonalds Park, scoring three tries and saving another two.
He was unlucky not to be given man of the match honours in a losing City side and did his future representative chances no harm.
While Austin has not been spoken about as a Blues halves candidate for this year, City coach Fittler said he was “in the frame” after an eye-catching performance wearing the unfamiliar No.7 jumper.
The (NSW) coach watches it every week … a lot of things can happen,” Fittler said.
“I thought (Austin) handled the pressure really well.
“(City five-eighth) Jimmy Maloney was a stand-out from that point of view. His kicking game was great and his goalkicking obviously made an impression.
“But if you needed someone to win the game Blake could be your man. He was setting up space and following the ball. He did a lot of good things.”
Austin has been a big part of Canberra’s good form in recent weeks and he said he was reaping the benefits of stability under Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
Austin spent the first four years of his career with Penrith and Wests Tigers floating around the fringes of first grade.
He was the Tigers’ Mr Fix It, playing almost every position in the backline and coming off the bench in most matches last year.
He was lured to Canberra because Stuart only had plans to make him the club’s No.6 and said that stability was building his confidence.
“I locked in a three-year deal and it was something I was always after,” Austin said.
“My family and I have nestled in really well there and I’ve got a coach that puts every bit of confidence in me. I’ve never enjoyed my footy so much and I’m loving my time in Canberra so far … (Stuart) only ever wanted to speak to me as a five-eighth and for someone who wanted to lock in one position it was all I wanted to hear.”