Leeds Rhinos would find it hard not to give off-contract half-back Blake Austin a new deal for next season if he continues to deliver masterclasses.
The 32-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season, with his future at the Rhinos seemingly up in the air at the moment.
Austin has won the man of the match award in his last two games, helping the Rhinos to impressive victories over Huddersfield and Warrington over the last fortnight.
Leeds coach Rohan Smith previously stated that he hadn’t given up hope on keeping hold of Austin, who reportedly recently entered the open market for 2024, according to Leeds Live.
Blake Austin makes future intentions clear after man of the match display
Speaking after their 22-6 win over his former club Warrington last week, Austin made his future intentions clear as he received the man of the match award, saying he’d be very much keen on extending his stay at Headingley.
Austin told Sky Sports: “I’m not sure if Gary’s (Hetherington, chief executive) been watching, he hasn’t called me yet or wanted to discuss a contract. Hopefully I can keep pushing forward my case and we’ll get something sorted.”
Asked if Leeds is his club of choice, Austin responded: “Yeah, but I don’t know if Leeds’ preference is for me to stay.
“I’d love to hear from them and all I can do is keep playing well.”
When Austin’s on, he’s on. He’s got lethal footwork that can bamboozle opposition defences and can single handedly win you a game, there’s no doubt about that.
He’s currently got 14 assists to his name in 16 appearances in Super League this season as well as a try and a match-winning drop goal in which helped the Rhinos win at St Helens earlier in the campaign.
You’d suspect that Austin, who has made 12 clean breaks in 2023, wouldn’t be short of suitors come the end of the season if he is still off-contract by then.
The Rhinos are currently eighth in the Super League table, four points away from a play-off spot. Austin will be an important cog in the Rhinos system if they were to follow a similar route to last year as they made a late surge to reach the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.
Rhinos team-mate would ‘love’ Austin to stay at Headingley
Speaking on Sky Sports after their win at Warrington, Rhinos hooker Jarrod O’Connor said he would love for the ex-NRL playmaker to extend his time at the club beyond this season.
O’Connor said: “I’d love him to stay at Leeds.
“The things he does for us is outstanding. The way he takes on the line and just the atmosphere he brings to the squad, we’d all love him to stay. But we’ll have to see what happens.”
It’s a blow for Austin and the Rhinos this weekend, with the half-back receiving a one-match ban from the Warrington game, meaning the Rhinos will have to do without him on Sunday when they travel to Salford.
But what the last couple of weeks have shown is that the maverick playmaker still has plenty left in the tank, and is a proven match-winner.