Canberra gun Blake Austin is confident he’ll be fit for round one of the new NRL season after off-season shoulder surgery.
The star five-eighth went under the knife last September, a few days after tearing a tendon in round 25.
It’s Austin’s third shoulder operation but first on his right side – and much bigger.
“I haven’t had a process post-op like this one … so it’s been a bit more frustrating,” he told AAP on Wednesday.
“But I think things are coming along really quickly.”
Austin confirmed he would not be going to New Zealand for next weekend’s Auckland Nines, with coach Ricky Stuart keen to send a “pretty conservative squad”.
The Raiders will announce their team on Saturday.
“You’re not going to form too many combinations in a Nines game,” he said.
“Sticky’s not that big on too many pre-season games anyway.
“We’re training at game intensity and under game fatigue, and we’re super excited to start the season.”
Austin, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2015 following his switch from the Wests Tigers, was unsure if he’d play in the Raiders’ trial match against Newcastle on February 20 in Orange.
While he’ll be pushing for some game time, he trusts the work he’s done on the training paddock will hold him in good stead.
“I’m pretty comfortable with where my fitness levels are at. I just want to rip in and play footy.
“I’m quite confident I’ll be there (round one). I don’t want to be sitting in the stands watching the boys run.
“I won’t be out there if I do have any doubt in my mind, but I’m super confident I’ll be fine.”
The Raiders start the 2016 season with two home games against Penrith and the Sydney Roosters.
Who will partner Austin in the halves remains a mystery, with recruit Aidan Sezer to battle it out with incumbent Sam Williams.
Sezer is also on the comeback from shoulder surgery, but is back into full training.
He hopes to be cleared to return for the trial with the Knights.
“I’m feeling good,” the former Gold Coast playmaker said.
“The medical staff have been really good and I’m very grateful for the care they’ve taken with me.”