Returning Austin praises Bulldogs' decision
The Bulldogs have found an unlikely ally in Canberra's Blake Austin ahead of their highly-anticipated clash with the Raiders at Belmore Sportsground.
Austin applauded the Bulldogs' decision to continue hosting games at the club's spiritual home after introducing the initiative last season with games against Melbourne and Cronulla following a 17-year hiatus.
"Hats off to the Bulldogs for taking a game back to a suburban ground. We're in a day and age where we're driven by commercial dollar. It's a spiritual home for them but I'm sure it'll be something we get a kick out of as well," Austin said of Monday night's clash.
Austin is ready to test himself against one of the competition's best after three torturous weeks on the sidelines spent rehabbing a knee injury suffered in the Raiders' season-opener.
"In my mind this was the game that I always had pencilled in [to return]. I worked pretty hard on my injury. It's been torture especially when you don't have a game of footy to look forward to at the end of the week," Austin said.
"They were tough times but I'm back now. I think I'll be like a kid in a candy store because I'll be happy to be back out there again. It'll bring a bit of normality back to my life I suppose too.
"There's none more physical in the competition than the Bulldogs and they're going to test us. We're up for the challenge and it's going to be a great chance to see where we're at as a team."
Bulldogs local junior Aidan Sezer (fractured eye socket) is also scheduled to return for the Raiders on Monday.
Much has already been said about Sezer and Austin's pre-season struggles with their respective shoulder issues but they didn't plan on extending their time in rehab together once the season had commenced.
After spending just 30 minutes together on the paddock so far this season, Austin's excitement to finally link up with Sezer for a proper period is palpable.
Austin also shied away from his increasing State of Origin chances with Laurie Daley signalling at the series launch on Tuesday that he is leaning towards having a utility on his bench.
"Since Aidan has come to the club we have had a lot of time to spend together in rehab. Our injuries have coincided so far so hopefully we can both put it behind us," Austin said.
"We're equally excited to put in some good performances for the Raiders.
"For me it's just about getting out on the field. Utility is a role I've played in the past and one I'm quite capable of playing but at the moment it's about getting some performances under my belt and performing well for the Raiders."