Canberra utility Blake Austin says he hasn’t taken his NSW State of Origin snub to heart, admitting selectors were right to overlook him.
Austin, despite being in good form for the Raiders, said he hasn’t done enough to justify why he should have been picked ahead of South Sydney’s Dylan Walker, the surprise choice as the Blues’ bench utility option for next week’s series opener in Sydney.
“I’m disappointed with my season so far,” Austin told reporters on Wednesday.
“It’s been super frustrating to be off the park as much as I have and, some of my performances, I haven’t been that happy with.
“For me, it’s about staying on the paddock for the Raiders and really building on my performance last week and getting some confidence back.”
Austin feel like he has a point to prove to the Blues’ hierarchy.
“I’m sure if I’m playing well, (NSW selectors) will be aware that I’m still around and that’s all I’ll be trying to do,” he said.
Austin, last year’s Dally M five-eighth of the year, has been restricted to just six NRL games this season due to shoulder, knee and, most recently, hamstring injuries.
But he produced arguably his finest performance of the season in Canberra’s 38-12 win over the Warriors last weekend in New Zealand, scoring one try and missing only one out of his 22 tackle attempts.
Austin says he feels like the Raiders, who have a chance to climb up the ladder when they face fifth-placed Canterbury on Sunday, have found their groove defensively.
“It’s huge. It’s something we speak about daily and I think we’ve turned a bit of a corner in the last three or four weeks with our defence,” he said.
“I think we’re starting to get some real confidence and really starting to enjoy turning teams away. It’s something we have to keep doing.”
Canberra will get another boost in that department with the return of the ferocious Sia Soliola (arm), who replaces Queensland back-rower Josh Papalii (Origin) and ensures the Raiders will remain at close to full strength.
“Anyone who’s watched Sia knows what you’re going to get,” Austin said.
“There’s not too much difference between his best and his worst and that’s what makes him the player he is.
“You’re a bit more comfortable knowing he’s next to you on the field.”