Castleford's Andy Last thought signing Leeds Rhinos' Blake Austin was 'wind-up'

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Blake Austin tackles St Helens
Blake Austin tackles St Helens' James Bell in Friday's Super League defeat - what turned out to be his last game for Leeds Rhinos (Image: PA)

Castleford boss Andy Last thought it was a "wind-up" when told the club could sign Leeds star Blake Austin.

The Aussie stand-off, 32, has made a shock move on the eve of transfer deadline day, joining Castleford on loan until the end of the season. He is out of contract at Headingley at the end of this season but hoped to earn a new deal for 2024. However, he has not been shy in coming forward publicly with how he’s been in the dark about what will happen with his future.

Former Great Britain star Austin, who helped Leeds reach the Grand Final last year, had been linked with a move to Championship leaders Featherstone for next term. But in a sensational twist, he has now joined Castleford, tasked with firing them to Super League safety. The ex-Canberra ace isn’t eligible to feature against Huddersfield tomorrow but is set to debut in Tigers’ huge showdown with bottom-placed Wakefield on August 18. Warrington recalled their half-back Riley Dean from a loan stint at Castleford this week so Tigers boss Andy Last was in need of a new playmaker.

Austin’s quality addition will serve as a massive boost to their hopes of avoiding the drop - but leave Rhinos in need of a new playmaker as they desperately try and keep their top-six hopes alive. Last explained: "It was about nine o'clock yesterday evening I got a call. We did some work last night and managed to get the deal done which is fantastic news. But I was shocked when we first got the message. I thought it was a wind-up.

"But I ended up getting his number and we ended up having a chat. He said it sounded good. Blake's that X factor style player we've seen at Canberra, Warrington and Leeds. He's a maverick who can win games single-handedly. He can really help us as a team. To get someone of his quality at this time of year is fantastic. He is someone with a massive amount of experience in the NRL and in Super League who has proven himself as one of the top players in his position. His knowledge of the game and rugby brain will be a big bonus for us as we aim to finish the season strongly.”

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Last doesn't expect any more signings before the deadline but said a couple of players could yet go out on loan. He confirmed fellow new arrivals Liam Horne and Charbel Tasipale will debut against Huddersfield and Jordan Turner (broken thumb) is set to return against Wakefield but, in a major blow, England hooker and captain Paul McShane is unlikely to play again this season due to his forearm injury.

Castleford's Andy Last thought signing Leeds Rhinos' Blake Austin was 'wind-up'Leeds Rhinos' Blake Austin (PA)

On Austin's capture, Castleford's director of rugby Danny Wilson added: “Blake is a very exciting player who is of a very high calibre, and we know what he can do when he’s at his best. We hope that he can come in and help us in our fight and be a point of difference. In terms of the deal, it was a really quick one because we heard late on that Blake could be available and we acted as quickly as we could.

"I’d like to thank Leeds and his agent for supporting us on this move. We know he will come in and give his all for Cas Tigers. It’s exciting news for the fans as well and I think they will all get behind him and the team to have a really positive end to the season.”

David Craven

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