Former Rebel?s Titanic effort
By TONY WHITE
FORMER South Grafton Rebel Matt Austin was named National Player Of The Tournament at last weekend's Orara Axemen Sevens Tournament in Coffs Harbour.
More than 500 players including a host of NRL players competed in the annual event, 21-year-old Austin turning out for 2007 NRL new comers, the Gold Coast Titans.
Considering the calibre of players involved, it was an outstanding achievement by the 99kg, 195cm front-rower.
"It was a fantastic tournament. I was rapt to win the award, it was something I never expected," Austin said.
"Playing with the Titans under John Cartwright was an awesome experience.
"John and Scott Sattler (football manager) said they were happy with the way I went."
Austin played junior rugby union representative football and league with the Rebels, captaining the Under-18 side, winning a stack of major awards and gaining numerous representative honours before taking up a contract with Sydney NRL club Manly Sea Eagles in 2003.
In his first two seasons with Manly, Austin played Jersey Flegg and Premier League, captaining the Flegg team in 2004 and played a full season in Premier League last year.
His decision to head north to the Gold Coast was based on three things.
"My manager rang up Tom Sewell and I got a contract to play with the Tweed Coast Seagulls in the Queensland Cup," Austin said. "I knew the Titans were coming into the NRL and I'm hopeful of getting a run there.
"My girlfriend, Sara Bostock, was also on the Gold Coast and it meant I was closer to her and my family in Grafton.
"I thought it was a good opportunity to try and break into the Titans side."
Austin's debut for the new NRL franchise certainly didn't go unnoticed.
"He (Austin) was solid in every game, it wasn't a surprise to me he got the award," Titans head coach Cartwright said of the young star.
Due to anti-tampering laws the Titans cannot officially sign anyone until after June 30 this year.
Austin is hoping to claim one of 32 available spots with the Titans.
"Hopefully I can play some good football with Tweed Seagulls and get a look in with the Titans," Austin said.
"That's my main goal."
The bulk of the inaugural Titans squad are likely to be considered from the Queensland Cup competition.