Written by John Davidson
Photo by Photo PA Wire
Blake Austin has opened up on his international eligibility and says he would like to represent Great Britain & Ireland Lions to honour his grandmother.
Austin was born and raised in western Sydney, and played for the Australian Schoolboys in 2009. But the five-eighth is eligible to play for Great Britain and England through his English grandmother and qualifies on heritage grounds.
Austin is line for a possible call-up to the Lions tour after his fantastic form in Super League since arriving at Warrington at the start of 2019. The former Canberra Raiders half leads Super League for tries scored, with 17 from 18 appearances, is 13th in the competition for try assists with 11 and ranked third for tackle busts with 88.
Austin is competing with the likes of George Williams, Jake Connor, Jonny Lomax and Sam Tomkins for a spot with Great Britain at the end of this year.
The 28-year-old said it would be special to play for the Lions and England to thank his grandmother for her contribution to his rugby league career.
“I’d love to. It’s a touchy subject because I don’t want to disrespect people,” Austin said.
“But I am eligible and I would like to do it. Especially now that I’m living here too, I’ve got a bit more of a right to put me hand up now that I’m here and embracing the country as well.
“But my nan, she’s been one of the biggest supporters of my career. She’s a rugby league tragic, that’s why my mum’s a tragic.
“She’s the type of woman that she’ll call me and tell me I was the best player on the field, and the best looking on the field, and that her grandson is the best ever. And her and my pop did a hell of a lot for me.
“They were always, not rich, but pop owned a small business, so chipped in a lot and bought a lot of stuff for me, took me to a lot of trainings growing up.
“If I could look her in the eye and say I’ve been picked in this rep team because of you, and you’re the reason, that would be something really special. It would certainly be something she would get a kick out of it as well.
“I think everyone’s got their story and mine’s a bit different to a lot of other blokes who’ve pulled on the England jersey, but I certainly wouldn’t show any disrespect towards it.
“I’d love to tell me nan that she’s the reason I’m playing in this team.”
Austin, who started his NRL career with Penrith in 2011, played three matches for Portugal as a youngster.
He made one appearance for NSW City in 2015 and was close to a call up for State of Origin this year.
Austin explained his grandmother’s British roots and how she came to migrate to Australia.
“She was born in Middlesex but she came through the war-era, she was ripped from her family and she went through a few foster homes here in the UK and then found her way to Australia,” he said.
“She tells me she had a really rough time in foster care with her and her sisters. They actually fled the last family they were with because they were getting beaten.
“Apparently all the kids were getting taken away from home to be sent wherever. She told me she came over to Australia on the last ever seaplane, so it took a couple of weeks.
“She’s been in Australia for a long time, she’s a proud Aussie and grateful for all the opportunities had there. But she was born in England, she still holds the accent – she can’t shake that.”