In news that will either delight or infuriate Raiders fans, depending on where they fall on the “Is Blake Austin any good?” barometer, The Canberra Times are reporting that the Raiders and Austin are in talks for a long-term extension (for the record, we don’t think Austin would be a good fit at five-eighth for most NRL teams, but is a great fit for Stuart’s system).
Austin is under contract for 2018, but Raiders CEO Don Furner has said that they’re already in negotiations to keep him.
“Yes we are. It’s the same as a couple of the other ones (who are off contract),” Furner said. “There’s still uncertainty about where the salary cap will be at – so we’re going backwards and forwards and we’re in those negotiations. We want to keep him.”
To be fair, Furner’s phrasing suggests it was in response to a very specific line of questioning, and saying it’s “the same as a couple of the other ones” doesn’t make it sound like he’s necessarily their top priority. However, it’s at least noteworthy that he admitted that they’re in negotiations to keep him in Canberra.
And why wouldn’t they be? Contrary to popular opinion, the Raiders’ offense is hardly their biggest problem – we have them ranked 5th in the league in that category, and at present they’re ranked 3rd in the league in points scored.
Rather, the Raiders’ losses have stemmed largely from a combination of bad luck in close games, and poor discipline at the least opportune times. Against the Knights they made 13 errors, and conceded a further 7 penalties. Against the Bulldogs – 13 errors. The Panthers? 13 errors. They likely would have beaten the Sea Eagles were it not for a diabolical 15 errors. The result of all these games were losses.
We don’t think the Raiders are as bad as their record suggests, and they would be our pick to be the most improved side of 2018 (had a couple of those close losses gone the other way, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation).
So, we’re happy to see Austin retained, and signing him up while his value is arguably at its lowest seems like a shrewd move by the Raiders.
Austin has played 93 first grade games for the Raiders, Tigers and Panthers.