Raiders halves' blessing in disguise
Livewire Canberra five-eighth Blake Austin can see the positives in being a part of the Raiders' rehab squad this off-season, considering he'll be alongside new recruit Aidan Sezer for the most part.
The expected halves partnership for when the Raiders kick-off their 2016 campaign, Austin and Sezer, both 24, not only have time to talk footy but also work on their respective shoulder injuries together before returning to full contact training.
With their shoulder issues popping up late on in the season, both men are still a few weeks away from joining their teammates but it doesn't mean they aren't working towards the same goal.
"It's a real positive to come out of a negative situation I suppose. We have already started to talk a bit of footy in the gym and things like that," Austin said.
"We are all footballers and we all respect what each one of us do. Aidan and I will just complement each other and we both see that.
"He's a pretty cheeky fella which makes it pretty easy for myself to get along with so it's been easy to forge a pretty good relationship."
Long-term rivals dating back to the 2007 Harold Matthews grand final where Sezer's Bulldogs beat Austin's Panthers in extra time, Sezer is expected to return to training quicker than his now-teammate.
"We had surgeries around a similar time, but mine was a bit of a bigger operation," Austin said.
"But the medical staff are confident it'll come a long way in the next week or so and we'll be able to rip into a bit more stuff."
Sezer adding, on his own shoulder troubles: "It's coming along well. I looked after myself well knowing I was coming to a new club and I wanted to be in good knick when I arrived here.
"It's been great the first couple of weeks. The transition from the Gold Coast has been good because it's a good vibe around the club so I'm looking forward to relishing in the future."
Austin went on to label State of Origin as a "realistic goal" following his breakout season.
Earning Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year honours having scored 14 tries in 23 games, Austin finally believes he is ready for higher representative honours following his City Origin debut in 2015.
"Everyone says they want to play Origin but you always know when you're close enough to have as a realistic goal. It will definitely be one of mine," he said.
"Everything that happened last year means nothing now though, I have to come out and play some good footy in 2016 to even be considered. I'll be working hard and plugging away and whatever comes from that, will happen."