Blake Austin admits Canberra Raiders need to be better at closing out NRL games

Blake Austin admits Canberra Raiders need to be better at closing out NRL games

Canberra Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin admits they need to be better at closing out close games, but it's too easy to say that means being better in the final five minutes.

Instead, they need to get better at seizing the "winning" moments when they run out against Newcastle at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

Raidesr five-eighth Blake Austin believes closing out games doesn't necessarily mean doing it in the last five minutes.

Raidesr five-eighth Blake Austin believes closing out games doesn't necessarily mean doing it in the last five minutes.Credit:Terry Cunningham

The Raiders lost eight games by six points or less last season and added a two-point loss to the Gold Coast to that in their season opener on Sunday through a 78-minute Konrad Hurrell converted try.

But Austin said it would be easy to point to those closing moments as the reason they lost - especially given their past in losing nailbiters.


Instead, he felt they needed to stamp out their errors - something that plagued them last season as well.

"We've got to close those games out. We've got to make sure we're tucking the ball under our wing and finishing where we need to be finishing in our sets," Austin said.

"There's plenty of moments that go into winning a football match and saying the last five or six minutes - that's not exactly where we lost the match on the weekend.

"We let a few unforced errors creep into our game again and when you do that momentum shifts and you get yourself on the back foot.

"This is something that's become easy to write about, but when we go over everything with a fine comb we've got to make sure we're getting every moment in the game right, not just the last five minutes."

Austin was named on the bench last week, but started at five-eighth in place of Aidan Sezer and alongside halfback Sam Williams.

This week, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has named Austin at No.6 with Sezer as the utility on the bench.

While he was planning to run out in the 13, Austin admitted being named to start didn't mean he definitely would.

"I plan to start. I get to wear the No.6 this week. One thing I do know is you can't expect to be in the position you're named in on the team sheet," he said.

"We'll be training all week as hard as we can and if Sticky wants me to start again this week I'll do that."

Austin said they'd produced some cracking contests against the Knights in recent seasons, regardless of where each team sat on the ladder.

Newcastle have won the last three wooden spoons, but have been bolstered by a raft of signings including halfback Mitchell Pearce, second-rower Aidan Guerra and fullback Kalyn Ponga.

Last year, they split their games with each team winning at home, while in 2016 the Raiders won a golden-point thriller and the other game ended in a draw.

Austin said adding NSW Blues star Pearce to the mix made the Knights even more dangerous.

"This week it's going to be important we hold onto the ball, we let the big boys roll forward and we turn the ball over where we need to," he said.

"They're a side that's rolling on confidence, they've been the talk of the town for a long part of the pre-season and we're going to have our work cut out.

"We've had some bumper games with them the last few years no matter where either of us are sitting on the ladder.

"They're a completely new side. I think Mitchell Pearce is one of the best halfbacks running around. Any side with him in it is going to be a challenge."

Raiders captain Jarrod Croker came off for a concussion test against the Titans, but Austin expected him to face the Knights.


Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights at Canberra Stadium, 6.30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

Raiders squad: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Sia Soliola, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Luke Bateman. Interchange from: 14. Aidan Sezer, 15. Junior Paulo, 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Charlie Gubb, 18. Craig Garvey, 19. Michael Oldfield, 20. Royce Hunt, 21. Jack Murchie.

Knights squad: 1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Tautau Moga, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Mitchell Pearce (c), 8. Herman Ese'ese, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Jacob Lillyman, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitchell Barnett. Interchange from: 14. Brock Lamb, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jamie Buhrer (c), 17. Daniel Saifiti, 18. Ken Sio, 19. Jacob Saifiti, 20. Daniel Levi, 21. Luke Yates.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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