Austin braced for barrage against Panthers
Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks has warned new fullback Blake Austin to prepare himself for a kicking barrage when he faces former club Penrith on Sunday afternoon.
Despite speculation that prodigious teenager Mitchell Moses is set to make his debut in the No. 1 jumper alongside his high school halves partner, Austin remains favourite to fill in for injured star James Tedesco this week.
And Brooks has told him to be ready.
"Obviously it's his second game at fullback so I think they will target him, but he'll be alright. He'll be up for the challenge," Brooks said on Thursday.
"I think he went well [last week]. That would've been his first game at fullback so he did well. He wouldn't have known he was going to play fullback all week so he did well to be put in that position. Hopefully he can back it up this week as well."
One player who hopes Austin's move to the backfield will be a success is returning utility Dene Halatau, who was slated to be the club's Mr Fix It this season but has managed just a handful of minutes since returning to Concord from Belmore over the summer.
Halatau, who was part of the joint venture's 2005 premiership win, broke his ankle in a trial game in February before suffering concussion two minutes into his comeback game against the Rabbitohs in Round 14.
"Yeah, [Austin's] a great fullback! He was really good there last week. If Teddy's out for the rest of the year, why not play Blake there?" Halatau suggested.
"I'm happy to play anywhere [Potter] wants to put me... Austo has had a great year. He's a pretty talented guy and at Penrith he was earmarked as a future half. He's come over here for an opportunity and had a really good pre-season and I could see he was itching to play first grade. And he's been outstanding.
"Obviously it means if I'm to fill the utility role I'm going to have to work hard to try and get that off him. But at the same time I'll work hard and see. If we can find a spot for both of us in the team, then so be it. It's what makes a team good – when there's competition for spots."
While club physio Peter Moussa confirmed on Thursday that Tedesco's knee injury is likely to keep him out for the rest of the season, winger David Nofoaluma is expected to play despite failing to train all week due to a troublesome knee.
Nofoaluma came off after hurting his knee in the second half of their win over the Raiders last Saturday night, but returned to finish the game.
"The club's been good with me, just laying off until the last minute. So I should be alright," he said. "I just keep tampering with it. It's a little niggly. I get in bad positions and unfortunately when you re-do an injury it gets a bit harsh.
"If it gets any worse, then I'll have to do something about it. [But] it's fine. As long as I keep strengthening it with physio and keep getting it treated, it's fine.