Austin staying at Leichhardt: Potter
Blake Austin played the house down against the Sharks, and according to coach Mick Potter is part of the furniture at Tigers HQ despite reports during the week that other clubs are circling the rapidly improving utility.
Austin was outstanding in the Wests Tigers' 26-10 defeat of Cronulla on Saturday afternoon, producing two key first half defensive plays that restricted the Sharks' halftime lead to just a converted try before coming up with the game-defining play after the break.
As the scoreboard read 10-apiece with half an hour to play, Sharks winger Valentine Holmes flew high for a bomb and then passed in-field to Blake Ayshford with nothing but green pasture between him and the try-line.
Nothing that is except Austin, who swooped on the pass and sprinted 85 metres for a 12-point turnaround from which the Sharks never recovered. He was forced from the field shortly afterward with a suspected ankle syndesmosis injury, but by that point had already racked up 197 running metres, a try and three tackle breaks.
Just 48 hours earlier News Limited reported that Austin had attracted the interest of Canberra, on the hunt for a five-eighth to replace axed veteran Terry Campese, while the Sharks are also believed to have made enquiries about the 23-year-old.
The former Panther is enjoying a break-out year after joining the Tigers on a two-year deal, and according to Potter will be honouring that commitment to the club.
"He's contracted here and as far as I'm concerned he's here, full stop," Potter said when asked about Austin's current contract situation.
The embattled coach, whose own future is likely to be decided when the club's new board meets for the first time on Sunday, was far more open when it came to discussing Austin's ability.
"He's a complete pro," Potter said.
"He's one of those players Blake, he's just so enthusiastic, he's so knowledgeable with the game, his positional play's good, he's fast, he's got good feet and he could slide in anywhere for you."
Potter said the Tigers were unsure of the extent of Austin's injury, but that he would have scans over the coming days.
The five tries-to-two win saw the Tigers tumultuous year end on a high, and avoided equalling the club's worst ever losing streak after six straight defeats.
Captain Robbie Farah said in spite of the win, there was no hiding from the fact the Tigers had failed to qualify for finals football for the third straight season.
"It's been a tough year for everyone involved, we can't sugar coat that," Farah said.
"We set out to make the top eight, as every other team does, and we haven't done that so we've got to consider the season a failure because we're not playing semi finals footy.
"I said last week it would be disappointing going into an offseason having lost seven in a row so for us to salvage a win today, while it's only a small consolation, we do get to finish off our season on a positive note.
"We can lick our wounds, have a break and come back and work hard through the summer. We also got to repay the fans as well.
"It's been a tough time for them as well. For them to show up today in the conditions again – it seems to rain every time we play at Leichhardt – we gave them something to smile about.
"While the win today was nice it's a little bit bittersweet that we won't be going around next week."