Austin seeks Benji's six appeal
He has played just 15 games in three years, but new Wests Tigers recruit Blake Austin has one goal in mind this summer: wearing the famed No. 6 jumper of Benji Marshall.
"That's the plan. Obviously I know that I'm not owed anything at this club. I come here with an opportunity to make it my own so I'm keen to get a good off-season under my belt," he said.
"But definitely that's the goal, to be the number six."
And the 22-year-old says he has no concerns filling the boots of one of the most decorated players to represent the club in Marshall. The premiership-winner Tiger left Concord at the end of this season with over 200 NRL games and 25 Tests to his name. In contrast, Austin featured just once for the Panthers in 2013.
"I put what he's done for this club aside. I can't emulate what he's done. I was a huge fan of Benji. I was never a Tigers fan per se, but you always tuned in when they were playing and watched closely at what he does," Austin said.
"But I'm here to do the little things that I do well and hopefully add something to the Tigers. I debuted almost three years ago and I would've wanted to have played more than 15 games by now.
"I'm fortunate to have played the games Penrith gave me, but I'm looking to find my feet and become a regular first grader."
With promising halfback Luke Brooks favoured to start in the No. 7, veteran Braith Anasta is likely to partner him in the halves at the start of the season. But Austin, along with utility Tim Moltzen, will challenge Anasta for the spot, and believes his game complements the talented Brooks.
"From what I've seen from him, he's a real traditional style halfback. He seems like he can grab the game, control it, which complements my game," Austin said.
"So then I can just sit back and concentrate on my running game, and then chime in with my kicking game here and there. I like the look of his style of play, he seems to have a real steady head.
"With Braith, I still feel like a young kid so I'm here to learn from him. Braith's had something like 10 years in the game now so he's obviously got a lot of knowledge and it'd be good to get some of his tips, but I'll be putting everything I can into nailing down the number six."
With the club's endless supply of junior talent, Austin reckons the Tigers are in a better position to rebuild than Penrith were two years ago.
"A couple of years ago, Penrith were in a spot where they were trying to rebuild, but there wasn't that flow of young kids coming through, which is why they went on a bit of a recruitment drive," Austin said.
"But rebuilding here, they've obviously got some great young talent. I'm sure the guys that were on display this year, guys like [David] Nofoaluma, [Tim] Simona, [Luke] Brooks, the couple of good young forwards they had, and even the kids that haven't debuted yet, can really add some stuff.
"I think the Tigers are in a good spot. I'm not sure if we're going straight for the title, but I'm confident we've got a good enough team to push for the eight."