Off-contract Blake Austin has no plans to leave the UK, and has a few potential deals ‘in the pipeline’, but admitted none of those are with Leeds Rhinos, a club he’s very much ‘burned his bridges’ with.
The 32-year-old departed Headingley under a cloud in early August following some very public discussions surrounding an offer of a new deal not being forthcoming.
Joining Super League rivals Castleford Tigers on loan until the end of the season, he’s seeing out the remainder of his Rhinos contract at the Jungle, trying to help Danny Ward’s side avoid the drop.
Leeds boss Rohan Smith previously admitted he wasn’t kept in the loop on Austin’s exit, and now for the first time since it happened, the player himself has opened up on what – even to him – was a surprise move.
Blake Austin discusses Leeds Rhinos exit
The half-back made 23 appearances for the Rhinos in his first year there as they reached the Super League Grand Final, returning to Old Trafford for the first time since 2017. In 2023, he’d made a further 18 appearances for Smith’s side before a sudden departure.
It had been believed that Austin wanted a two-year deal at Leeds in order to put pen to paper, with the club only wanting to give him 12 months. Speaking ahead of Cas’ game at Warrington Wolves tomorrow however, Austin put that rumour to bed.
He said: “There was a bit of speculation as to why it happened. I received a phone call at 9.30 on a Wednesday night from Gareth Widdop saying ‘are you interested in coming and giving us a hand?’
“I sort of said that I wasn’t sure if Leeds would let me, but the way my situation was, I was open to coming and helping if they thought I could. Within 12/15 hours, I was a Tiger.
“I wasn’t looking to leave, I was a bit upset with my situation, but I was fully focused on forging ahead for them for the rest of the year.
“Part of the frustration with the whole situation was that there was never any talk about any contract, no length at all. My frustration was that no one from the club made any attempt to shut that rumour down, and they let it drag on.
“I told them countless times that a one-year deal was fine at Leeds, there’s more to it as well that I don’t want to go over, but I’m here at Cas now.
“I guess in life all you can do is deal with the cards that you’ve been dealt, and in all of it, there’s a good lesson there for myself.”
‘My bridge is burned’: Blake Austin dismisses potential of Leeds return
With just four games remaining of the Super League season, the Parramatta-born man is yet to put pen to paper on a deal with any club.
He’s not fazed by the situation, revealing that clubs have been in touch, but made it clear that he has no future at Headingley in 2024.
Austin continued: “There’s been some discussions, I’m still waiting for a call back from Leeds though, they haven’t rung me! My bridge is burned, and my ship is sailed, something along those lines I’d imagine.
“But there have been some discussions [with other clubs], the stress with the contract stuff has all been alleviated. You walk into this place and realise that your own problems probably aren’t as bad as you maybe think they are. There’s boys dealing with stuff, so I think the stressful point for me has passed.
“We’re at a point now where what will be will be, and I’m excited about each day as it comes. “I was probably more stressed about the contract stuff six or eight weeks ago than what I am now. There’s only four weeks to go, and I’ve got a few things in the pipeline, but there’s nothing set in concrete.”
Veteran half-back will remain in England
The 32-year-old takes on the first Super League team he ever pulled the jersey on for in the shape of Warrington tomorrow.
He and his family made the move over from Australia ahead of the 2019 season, with Austin joining the Wolves from NRL outfit Canberra Raiders. Four years on, he’s not expecting to have to get the suitcases back out just yet, with England very much home now.
The Tigers loanee added: “I’m not planning on packing up. There’s a few things in the pipeline, and hopefully I can iron things out. We’re pretty settled here, we’ll look at that in the next few weeks for sure.
“I said when I came over that I was always planning on finishing my career here, so I’ll sort something out. A new challenge like this has allowed it (the stress) to be alleviated, taking things week by week again rather than me looking too far into the future.
“I’m just enjoying each week as it comes, and being at this place, that’s something that’s really important. I don’t look too far ahead, because we’re only seven days away from potentially being back in a real battle again. It’s been refreshing.”