Canberra recruit Blake Austin said while he was thrilled to have finalised a three-year deal with the Raiders, in a "perfect world" he'd still be a member of the Wests Tigers and helping the besieged club build towards next season.
The news that 23-year-old Austin was granted a release by their club's management upset many Wests Tigers supporters when it was announced on Tuesday morning.
The talented utility was recently named the player of the year by the club's members after he played fullback, centre, five-eighth, halfback, lock, second-row and even hooker during the season. However, he had long accepted that in any shootout for the club's No.6 jersey, the management would back young guns Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses ahead of him.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Wests Tigers and in a perfect world I would've loved to have stayed there," Austin told Fairfax Media on Tuesday. "But they've invested time into some young kid who I [always] knew would stand in my way.
"I have to do what is best for me and my family. I loved it at the Wests Tigers, the fans are great people. While I'm very excited about going to Canberra – and the Raiders are providing me with a great opportunity – there's a little bit of disappointment about leaving."
Austin said his new deal justified his decision to leave Penrith at the end of last year to join the Wests Tigers on what he called an "opportunity" contract.
"When I joined the Wests Tigers I said to [my manager] Tyran Smith 'this has to be the year that puts my career back on track'," he said. "I took a really big pay cut to join the Tigers and I said our next contract needed to be our best to date. I had a pretty good year with the Wests Tigers but I have to build on that now.
"Wests gave me an opportunity and staying on the paddock helped too. I'm grateful for the opportunities [former Wests Tigers coach] Mick Potter gave me and I'm looking to move forward with my career.
"To lock in three years with Canberra was very appealing. Canberra has some great young players. I look at the likes of Paul Vaughan and Mitch Cornish and it's tremendous, but when you talk about young players at Canberra you tend to overlook blokes like Josh Papalii and Shaun Fensom. While they're established you needed to be reminded they're only 22, 24 years old.
Austin said while he'd planned to pin down his preferred position at five-eighth, he accepted nothing was guaranteed.
"I'm not going to Canberra expecting to walk into the No.6 jersey. I'll work hard for it but I don't mind admitting the idea of getting a shot to play in the No.6 is very attractive," he said.
"I've spoken to [coach] Ricky Stuart several times and it's pleased me that he's been keen to get me down there from the start. It's good to be wanted and it excites me to think I have the chance to lock down a spot."
Austin's decision to join Canberra was expected to place even greater pressure on club stalwart and long-term five-eighth Terry Campese, who was dumped to NSW Cup for the last three games of 2014.