Instead of being frustrated by Canberra’s merry-go-round of NRL halfbacks, Blake Austin sees it as the perfect chance to take his game to the next level.
The star five-eighth has had three different playmaking partners this season, and on Sunday will combine with a fourth against his former club Penrith at Pepper Stadium.
Josh McCrone will wear the No.7 jersey in the absence of coach Ricky Stuart’s first choice Sam Williams, who is sidelined with a pectoral tear for at least another two weeks.
McCrone was picked ahead of Mitch Cornish, who started the year in the halves, and Jack Wighton, who shifted from fullback for last weekend’s 21-20 loss to Cronulla.
While the frequent reshuffling has meant extra responsibility, Austin is relishing the opportunity.
“A lot of people had the opinion that I was going to struggle without Sammy and, with the result (against the Sharks), you could probably say we weren’t as sharp as we were when Sammy’s on the field,” Austin told AAP.
“That’s the part of my game that I want to keep developing.
“Whoever’s beside me isn’t going to matter too much.
“I want to take my game to the next step, which is controlling the team and making the right decisions.”
The former Penrith and Wests Tigers utility says he realises he’s becoming the player the Raiders turn to when in need – something he’s never before experienced.
“In teams I’ve played in the past, I haven’t been that player; I’m the player that does the little things for the other guys to step up and make those crucial plays,” he said.
“It’s about learning my role in the team and I think I’m becoming one of the key players.
“So I’m working hard to make sure I know what to do in those crucial moments.”
Kicking was one area the 24-year-old admits he needs to improve, as was learning to properly share the load.
He’s confident his partnership with McCrone will work this weekend, even though his three NRL appearances in 2015 were at hooker.
“Macca’s a seasoned first-grader and played a lot of games at that level, so he’s not going to come in and get overawed or anything like that,” he said.
“He’s going to be really keen to impress and I’m sure he’ll really rise to the occasion of being back in the NRL.
“He’ll carry a bit more of that responsibility of leading the team and hopefully allow me to pop up around on the field a little bit more like I was.”