Never has Blake Austin felt as nervous as he did before Canberra’s history-making NRL semi-final win over Penrith on Saturday night.
It was his first NRL game in almost a month, having broken his hand at training in the week of their round 25 clash with Manly.
The five-eighth had two metal plates and 16 screws inserted, and only last week completed his first full contact session before getting clearance on Friday to play his former club.
“I was obviously pretty confident my hand was going to hold up, but training is nothing like a game and I was nervous I was going to let the boys down,” he said.
“I was scared. If I went out there and had to come off early from the hand, I’d never forgive myself.”
Austin said even his wife, Gillian, could sense the stress at home.
“I had some different nerves to what I normally get before a game heading in,” he said.
“But I got through it and really glad I did.
“Now I can go to Melbourne and have full confidence that I can get through a game through my hand … without any fear.”
Austin showed no fear whatsoever in the 22-12 victory at GIO Stadium on Saturday night, scoring the first try of the game with his trademark dummy and step in the 11th minute.
By then, the 25-year-old had well and truly overcome the nerves – which he said disappeared after his first tackle.
“You have your reservations I suppose, but once I could get that out of the way and it held up well, I was pretty confident,” he said.
“(It was) good to get another try and get my running game back.”
Austin sent a scare in the first half when he rolled his ankle and was limping heavily.
But he carried on and is confident that, if he follows the lead of hooker Josh Hodgson who made a miraculous recovery from a similar injury suffered last week, he will be fully fit for next Saturday’s grand final qualifier against the Storm at AAMI Park.
“You’ve just got to get on with it,” he said.
“I’ll probably take a leaf out of Hodgo’s book and make sure I really look after it throughout the week.
“It’s certainly not as severe as his, but I’ll just look after it.”