Blake Austin: Stand-off insists Leeds Rhinos' squad has 'all the tools' to win trophies this year

Stand-off Blake Austin reckons Leeds Rhinos have a squad good enough to win silverware this year, but admits experience at his previous club proves it takes more than that.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 4th February 2022, 10:00 pm

The Australian has joined Rhinos after three seasons with next Saturday’s Betfred Super League round one opponents Warrington Wolves.

He was part of a star-studded squad at HJ Stadium, but they did not reach a Grand Final during his time there and he was injured when Warrington won the Challenge Cup in 2019.

Austin insisted he has “no doubt” Rhinos’ roster is good enough to lift a trophy in 2022, but warned: “We have all the tools there, but when you spend three years at Warrington you come to learn that a strong squad’s not enough; you have got to put it all together.

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Blake Austin says Rhinos have a formidable squad this year. Picture by Tony Johnson.

“I think if we can start the season well it will ease a lot of pressure and it’ll go a long way towards making it a good season.”

After facing Warrington, who were third last year, Rhinos visit fourth-placed finishers Wigan Warriors and then play host to league leaders and Grand Final runners-up Catalans Dragons.

“You can look at it a couple of ways,” Austin said of Rhinos’ tough start.

“We are going to get a really good chance to see where we are at.

Blake Austin scores for Warirngton against Leigh last season. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com.

“One thing the Super League’s known for is a long, gruelling season so the results of the first three rounds aren’t going to have too much of an effect.

“But I think it’s really important we are happy with the brand of footy we are playing.

“At the end of those three weeks we are going to know where we are. We’ve got all the tools we need and we’re very confident in that; we’ve just got to settle on a really nice brand of footy pretty early and that will carry us through the season.

“I think that’s what has allowed Saints to stand out the last few years.

Austin has been impressed by Rhinos' performance director Richard Hunwicks. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“The difference between their best and their worst is not very big.

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“Those are things we are talking about. We are by no means trying to emulate what anyone else is doing, but we’ve got to not lose a game before we can win a game.

“That’s what we’re focusing on.”

A positive pre-season has left Rhinos in a strong position, according to Austin.

“It has been really good,” he stated. “Rich Hunwicks [performance director] has been a really good acquisition for the club, on the back of the season they had last year for a number of different reasons.

“The physical health and well being of the players is something they really wanted to address.

“Sometimes you can’t avoid that stuff, but so far, so good - I think they’ve had a real approach to make sure everyone’s fit and firing.

“The players they’ve brought in from other clubs have really added something and added to a squad that I think was already quite formidable.”

Austin is still waiting to hear if he will be charged over his sin-binning in last Sunday’s Tom Briscoe testimonial game against Hull.

He was yellow-carded for a late tackle on the passer, which is something the sport’s disciplinary chiefs have been cracking down on in pre-season.

The match review panel met this week to look at Challenge Cup and Championship games, but last weekend’s Super League trials will not be studied until Monday.

Of the prospect of facing his old side on debut for Rhinos, Austin said: “There’s no real feelings either way.

“There was always going to be some excitement for round one, my first proper hit-out for the club, but a lot of other people will make a much bigger deal out of it than I will.

“I had to play against Warrington at some point and it has come around pretty soon.”

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