Blake Austin: Leeds Rhinos signing keen to renew partnership with fellow recruit Aidan Sezer

New signing Blake Austin says he asked for a one-year contract at Leeds Rhinos, but is determined to secure a longer stay.

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 11:05 am

The 30-year-old former Warrington Wolves stand-off trained with Rhinos for the first time yesterday.

A Man of Steel nominee in 2019, when he also featured for Great Britain on their southern hemisphere tour, Austin reckons a short-term deal will keep him on his toes and bring out his best form in 2022.

“That was something I requested,” Austin confirmed.

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Blake Austin trains with Rhinos at Headingley for the first time. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“I was offered a two-year deal, but I think it’s best for both parties.

“I have every intention to be here longer, but I am at that age where I want to really keep testing myself and I think a one-year contract’s going to allow me to do that.”

Pre-season began for Rhinos with a field session at Headingley and Austin said it was “awesome” to finally get started with his new team-mates, more than three months after putting pen to paper.

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Aidan Sezer in his first training session with Rhinos. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“I don’t deal with time away from training very well so it’s good to be back,” he stated.

“I had a good break, but this is what I love so I’d much rather be here.”

As well as three seasons at Warrington, Austin has more than 120 NRL games under his belt with Penrith Panthers, Wests Tigers and Canberra Raiders, but that didn’t prevent first-day nerves.

“I woke through the night and I couldn’t get back to sleep,” he revealed.

Rich Hunwicks has rejoined Rhinos from Catalans Dragons, as performance director. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“I was pretty excited. We picked up our new kit last week so I had all that ready to go and it is pretty similar to the first day at a new school.

“Change is always exciting; it is something I’ve always done well - I have moved pretty well throughout my career - and I am keen to get going.”

Eight players have departed since the end of last season and Austin is one of four recruits in Rhinos’ full-time squad, alongside Aidan Sezer, James Bentley and David Fusitu’a, who has yet to arrive in England.

Leeds also have a new performance director in Richard Hunwicks, who was an assistant-conditioner at Leeds a decade ago before spells with Salford Red Devils, Catalans Dragons and England.

“I think there’s a lot of focus on the performance staff and that side of things, to really get that right so the footy can be given every chance,” Austin said.

“We’ve got a few weeks to get it right and then we’ll get going.”

Joining Leeds has reunited Austin - originally signed as a utility-player to cover full-back, centre and loose-forward, as well as half-back - with Sezer, who he partnered in the halves at Canberra.

The pair have been awarded the number six and seven jerseys for next season and Austin is delighted to be teaming up again with his old mate.

“Just hanging out with him every day is going to be pretty cool,” he said. “We know how each other ticks.

“We are going to have to work hard to get the footy stuff right, but everything away from footy we have a pretty good understanding of each other.”

Having trained at Headingley for the first time, Austin - a try scorer for Warrington there last season - insisted he’s looking forward to his first experience of being a home player at the stadium.

“I can’t wait to play here; it’s the best facilities in Super League,” he said.

“It is going to be good to be on the [home] side; hopefully the fans take to me and I can put in some good performances.”