Austin to be Panthers mainstay

To NRL Dream Teamers he was the cheapest option, someone to fill the gaps so the cash could be spent on bigger-named stars, but Panthers utility Blake Austin hopes to prove more than just a gap-filler in 2012.

The 21-year-old can play anywhere from five-eighth to lock forward, and after recently re-signing a deal to keep him at the Panthers, wants to cement a spot in the first-grade side.

The local junior grew up playing for Doonside and has always dreamed of performing consistently for the Panthers, in the off-season he worked hard to prove to everyone he is worth a first grade jersey.

“I’ve been around the team a bit, done a bit of five-eighth, spent some time in the centres and a little bit in the forwards,” he told NRL.com.

“At the moment I’m just happy to be in the team wherever that might be and show enough to cement a spot in the future.”

Pressed on his preferred position, Austin admitted that he ultimately wanted to play in the halves.

“I think the attributes I possess can go a long way at five-eighth, I’m just keen to keep learning the trade at five-eighth,” He said.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary also nominated five-eighth as Austin’s future position.

“He’s trained at five-eighth a lot, I think he’ll be a good five-eighth, but it takes a while to get that sort of position at a confident NRL level,” he said.

“He’s the sort of a guy who has that natural football instinct in him, so he can play different positions. I think he is going to be a real asset for us and I am looking forward to seeing him develop down the track.

“I think Blake has a huge future here, he is a local junior and played a couple of NRL games. He was a very good player in the Toyota Cup. There is a fair way to go for Blake, he is very young, but we have a lot of faith in him.

“I think he will be a really good player for us down the track, very happy to have him.”